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Full text of "Rodney Stone"



EDITION 



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LIBRARY 

un!v£rs!ty op 
California 
SAN DIEGO 



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RODNEY 4 i 
4 4 STONE 

By A.CONAN DOYLE 
ILLUSTRATED 




LONDON 

SMITH, ELDER & CO. 

15, Waterloo Place 
1903 



PREFACE TO THE AUTHOR'S 
EDITION 

It might seem pedantic if the author of a his- 
torical romance were to quote the authorities 
which have helped him to reconstruct the age of 
which he writes. It would be unfair, however, 
not to acknowledge the obligations which I owe 
to Mr. John Ashton's " Social Pictures of the 
Beginning of the Century." Also to Jesse's 
" Brummell," Fitzgerald's " George the Fourth," 
Gronow's ** Reminiscences," " Boxiana," " Pugil- 
istica," Harper's " Brighton Road," Robinson's 
" Last Earl of Barrymore " and " Old Q," Rice's 
" History of the Turf," and Tristram's " Coaching 
Days." 

I will not apologize for making so much of my 
story revolve around the prize-ring, for my opin- 
ion of that institution is sufficiently expressed in 
the text. It fell into deserved disrepute through 
the corruption which came upon the fighting 
men, and through the villanies of the obscene 
crowd of parasites and betting men who gathered 
round it. Already in 1804 such scenes were 
possible as the breaking up of the fight between 
" Crab " Wilson and Harrison — the first signs of 



PREFACE 

the decay which was destined to permeate the 
whole. But in that fighting age, when the very- 
existence of the country depended upon the 
rough valour of her sons, everything which made 
for hardihood and endurance was of national im- 
portance, and the prize-ring, rough and brutal as 
it was, served at least as a correction to effemi- 
nacy, and as an object lesson in manliness. 

I have added a note at the end of this volume, 
which gives a short account of some of the fight- 
ing-men who are mentioned in the course of the 
narrative, and may be of interest to those to 
whom the pages of " Pugilistica " are inaccessible. 

A. CoNAN Doyle. 

Undershaw, Hindhead, 
1901. 



VI 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTBB 



FAOB 



I. 


Friar's Oak .... 


. 1 


II. 


The Walker of Cliffe Royal 


. 19 


III. 


The Play- Actress of Anstey Cros 


s . 35 


IV. 


The Peace of Amiens . 


. 54 


V. 


Buck Tregellis 


. 70 


VI. 


On the Threshold 


. 93 


VII. 


The Hope of England . 


. 106 


VIII. 


The Brighton Road 


. 131 


IX. 


Watier's .... 


. 148 


X. 


The Men of the Ring . 


. 167 


XI. 


The Fight in the Coach-House 


. 196 


XII. 


The Coffee-Room of Fladong's 


. 220 


XIIL 


Lord Nelson .... 


. 242 


XIV. 


On the Road 


. 257 


XV. 


Foul Play .... 


. 278 


XVI. 


Crawley Downs . . . . 


. 287 


XVII. 


The Ring-Side . . . . 


. 305 


XVIII. 


The Smith's Last Battle 


. 324 



vu 



CONTENTS 

FAOB 
CHAPTER 

XIX. Cliffe Royal ^^^ 

XX. Lord Avon ^60 

XXI. The Valet's Story .... 376 
XXII. The End ^^^ 



NOTES ^^^ 



Vlll 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



The blockading squadron . . . Frontispiece 

FACING 
PAGE 

Harrison climbed in a leisurely manner 

over the ropes ..... 321 



RODNEY STONE 



CHAPTER I 
FRIAR'S OAK 

On this, the first of January of the year 1851, 
the nineteenth century has reached its midway 
term, and many of us who shared its youth have 
already warnings which tell us that it has out- 
worn us. We put our grizzled heads together, 
we older ones, and we talk of the great days 
that we have known ; but we find that when it is 
with our children that we talk it is a hard mat- 
ter to make them understand. We and our 
fathers before us lived much the same life, but 
they with their railway trains and their steam- 
boats belong to a different age. It is true that 
we can put history- books into their hands, and 
they can read from them of our weary struggle 
of two and twenty years with that great and 
evil man. They can learn how Freedom fled 
from the whole broad continent, and how Nel- 
son's blood was shed, and Pitt's noble heart was 
broken in striving that she should not pass us 
for ever to take refuge with our brothers across 



RODNEY STONE 

the Atlantic. All this they can read, with the 
date of this treaty or that battle, but I do not 
know where they are to read of oursel\^es, of the 
folk we were, and the hves we led, and how the 
world seemed to our eyes when they were young 
as theirs are now. 

If I take up my pen to tell you about this, 
you must not look for any story at my hands, 
for I was only in my earliest manhood when 
these things befell ; and although I saw some- 
thing of the stories of other hves, I could scarce 
claim one of my own. It is the love of a wom- 
an that makes the story of a man, and many a 
year was to pass before I first looked into the 
eyes of the mother of my children. To us it 
seems but an affair of yesterday, and yet those 
children can now reach the plums in the garden 
whilst we are seeking for a ladder, and where we 
once walked with their little hands in ours, we 
are glad now to lean upon their arms. But I 
shall speak of a time when the love of a mother 
was the only love I knew, and if you seek for 
something more, then it is not for you that I 
write. But if you would come out with me into 
that forgotten world ; if you would know Boy 
Jim and Champion Harrison ; if you would 
meet my father, one of Nelson's own men ; if 
you would catch a glimpse of that great seaman 
himself, and of George, afterwards the unworthy 

2 



FRIAR'S OAK 

King of England ; if, above all, you would see 
my famous uncle, Sir Charles Tregellis, the 
King of the Bucks, and the great fighting men 
whose names are still household words amongst 
you, then give me your hand and let us start. 

But I must warn you also that, if you think 
you will find much that is of interest in your 
guide, you are destined to disappointment. 
When I look over my bookshelves, I can see 
that it is only the wise and witty and valiant 
who have ventured to write down their experi- 
ences. For my own part, if I were only assured 
that I was as clever and brave as the average 
man about me, I should be well satisfied. Men 
of their hands have thought well of my brains, 
and men of brains of my hands, and that is the 
best that I can say of myself. Save in the one 
matter of having an inborn readiness for music, 
so that the mastery of any instrument comes 
very easily and naturally to me, I cannot recall 
any single advantage which I can boast over my 
fellows. In all things I have been a half-way 
man, for I am of middle height, my eyes are 
neither blue nor grey, and my hair, before 
Nature dusted it with her powder, was betwixt 
flaxen and brown. I may, perhaps, claim this : 
that through life I have never felt a touch of 
jealousy as I have admired a better man than 
myself, and that I have always seen all things as 



RODNEY STONE 

they are, myself included, which should count in 
my favour now that I sit down in my mature 
age to write my memories. With your permis- 
sion, then, we will push my own personaUty as 
far as possible out of the picture. If you can 
conceive me as a thin and colourless cord upon 
which my would-be pearls are strung, you will 
be accepting me upon the terms which I should 
wish. 

Our family, the Stones, have for many gener- 
ations belonged to the navy, and it has been a 
custom among us for the eldest son to take 
the name of his father's favourite commander. 
Thus we can trace our hneage back to old Ver- 
non Stone, who commanded a high-sterned, 
peak-nosed, fifty-gun ship against the Dutch. 
Through Hawke Stone and Benbow Stone we 
came down to my father, Anson Stone, who in 
his turn christened me Rodney, at the parish 
church of St. Thomas at Portsmouth in the year 
of grace 1786. 

Out of my window as I write I can see my 
own great lad in the garden, and if I were to 
call out " Nelson ! " you would see that I have 
been true to the traditions of our family. 

My dear mother, the best that ever a man 

had, was the second daughter of the Reverend 

John Tregelhs, Vicar of Milton, which is a small 

parish upon the borders of the marshes of Lang- 

4 



FRIAR'S OAK 

stone. She came of a poor family, but one of 
some position, for her elder brother was the 
famous Sir Charles Tregellis, who, having in- 
herited the money of a wealthy East Indian 
merchant, became in time the talk of the town 
and the very particular friend of the Prince of 
Wales. Of him I shall have more to say here- 
after ; but you will note now that he was my 
own uncle, and brother to my mother. 

I can remember her all through her beautiful 
life, for she was but a girl when she married, and 
little more when I can first recall her busy fin- 
gers and her gentle voice. I see her as a lovely 
woman with kind, dove's eyes, somewhat short 
of stature it is true, but carrying herself very 
bravely. In my memories of those days she is 
clad always in some purple shimmering stuff, 
with a white kerchief round her long white neck, 
and I see her fingers turning and darting as she 
works at her knitting. I see her again in her 
middle years, sweet and loving, planning, con- 
triving, achieving, with the few shillings a day 
of a lieutenant's pay on which to support the 
cottage at Friar's Oak, and to keep a fair face to 
the world. And now, if I do but step into the 
parlour, I can see her once more, with over 
eighty years of saintly life behind her, silver- 
haired, placid-faced, with her dainty ribboned 
cap, her gold-rimmed glasses, and her woolly 

5 



RODNEY STONE 

shawl with the blue border. I loved her young 
and I love her old, and when she goes she will 
take something with her which nothing in the 
world can ever make good to me again. You 
may have many friends, you who read this, and 
you may chance to marry more than once, but 
your mother is your first and your last. Cherish 
her, then, whilst you may, for the day will come 
when every hasty deed or heedless word will 
come back with its sting to hive in your own 
heart. 

Such, then, was my mother; and as to my 
father, I can describe him best when I come to 
the time when he returned to us from the IVIed- 
iterranean. During all my childhood he was 
only a name to me, and a face in a miniature 
hung round my mother's neck. At first they 
told me he was fighting the French, and then 
after some years one heard less about the French 
and more about General Buonaparte. I remem- 
ber the awe with which one day in Thomas 
Street, Portsmouth, I saw a print of the great 
Corsican in a bookseller's window. This, then, 
was the arch enemy with whom my father spent 
his life in terrible and ceaseless contest. To my 
childish imagination it was a personal affair, and 
I for ever saw my father and this clean-shaven, 
thin-Hpped man swaying and reeling in a deadly, 
year-long grapple. It was not until I went to 

6 



FRIAR'S OAK 

the Grammar School that I understood how 
many other httle boys there were whose fathers 
were in the same case. 

Only once in those long years did my father 
return home, which will show you what it meant 
to be the wife of a sailor in those days. It was 
just after we had moved from Portsmouth to 
Friar's Oak, whither he came for a week before 
he set sail with Admiral Jervis to help him to 
turn his name into Lord St. Vincent. I remem- 
ber that he frightened as well as fascinated me 
with his talk of battles, and I can recall as if it 
were yesterday the horror with which I gazed 
upon a spot of blood upon his shirt ruffle, which 
had come, as I have no doubt, from a mischance 
in shaving. At the time I never questioned that 
it had spurted from some stricken Frenchman or 
Spaniard, and I shrank from him in terror when 
he laid his horny hand upon my head. INIy 
mother wept bitterly when he was gone, but for 
my own part I was not sorry to see his blue back 
and white shorts going down the garden walk, for 
I felt, with the heedless selfishness of a child, that 
we were closer together, she and I, when we were 
alone. 

I was in my eleventh year when we moved 
from Portsmouth to Friar's Oak, a little Sussex 
village to the north of Brighton, which was rec- 
ommended to us by my uncle, Sir Charles Tre- 

7 



RODNEY STONE 

gellis, one of whose grand friends, Lord Avon, 
had had his seat near there. The reason of our 
moving was that Hving was cheaper in the coun- 
try, and that it was easier for my mother to keep 
up the appearance of a gentlewoman when away 
from the circle of those to whom she could not 
refuse hospitality. They were trying times those 
to all save the farmers, who made such profits 
that they could, as I have heard, afford to let 
half their land he fallow, while living like gentle- 
men upon the rest. Wheat was at a hundred 
and ten shillings a quarter, and the quartern loaf 
at one and ninepence. Even in the quiet of the 
cottage at Friar's Oak we could scarce have hved, 
were it not that in the blockading squadron in 
which my father was stationed there was the 
occasional chance of a little prize-money. The 
line-of-battle ships themselves, tacking on and off 
outside Brest, could earn nothing save honour ; 
but the frigates in attendance made prizes of 
many coasters, and these, as is the rule of the 
service, were counted as belonging to the fleet, 
and their produce divided into head-money. In 
this manner my father was able to send home 
enough to keep the cottage and to pay for me at 
the day school of Mr. Joshua Allen, where for 
four years I learned all that he had to teach. It 
was at Allen's school that I first knew Jim Har- 
rison, Boy Jim as he has always been called, the 

8 



FRIAR'S OAK 

nephew of Champion Harrison of the village 
smithy. I can see him as he was in those days 
with great, floundering, half-formed limbs Uke a 
Newfoundland puppy, and a face that set every 
woman's head round as he passed her. It was in 
those days that we began our hfelong friendship, 
a friendship which still in our waning years binds 
us closely as two brothers. I taught him his 
exercises, for he never loved the sight of a book, 
and he in turn made me box and wrestle, tickle 
trout on the Adur, and snare rabbits on Ditchhng 
Down, for his hands were as active as his brain 
was slow. He was two years my elder, how- 
ever, so that, long before I had finished my 
schooUng, he had gone to help his uncle at the 
smithy. 

Friar's Oak is in a dip of the Downs, and 
the forty-third milestone between London and 
Brighton lies on the skirt of the village. It is 
but a small place, with an ivied church, a fine 
vicarage, and a row of red-brick cottages each in 
its own little garden. At one end was the forge 
of Champion Harrison, with his house behind it, 
and at the other was Mr. Allen's school. The 
yellow cottage, standing back a Mttle from the 
road, with its upper story bulging forward and a 
crisscross of black woodwork let into the plaster, 
is the one in which we Uved. I do not know 
if it is still standing, but I should think it 

9 



RODNEY STONE 

likely, for it was not a place much given to 
change. 

Just opposite to us, at the other side of the 
broad, white road, was the Friar's Oak Inn, which 
was kept in my day by John Cummings, a man 
of excellent repute at home, but liable to strange 
outbreaks when he travelled, as will afterwards 
become apparent. Though there was a stream 
of traffic upon the road, the coaches from Brigh- 
ton were too fresh to stop, and those from London 
too eager to reach their journey's end, so that if 
it had not been for an occasional broken trace or 
loosened wheel, the landlord would have had 
only the thirsty throats of the village to trust to. 
Those were the days when the Prince of Wales 
had just built his singular palace by the sea, and 
so from May to September, which was the Brigh- 
ton season, there was never a day that from one 
to two hundred curricles, chaises, and phaetons 
did not rattle past our doors. Many a summer 
evening have Boy Jim and I lain upon the grass, 
watching all these gi-and folk, and cheering the 
London coaches as they came roaring through 
the dust clouds, leaders and wheelers stretched 
to their work, the bugles screaming and the 
coachmen with their low-crowned, curly-brimmed 
hats, and their faces as scarlet as their coats. 
The passengers used to laugh when Boy Jim 
shouted at them, but if they could have read his 

10 



FRIAR'S OAK 

big, half-set limbs and his loose shoulders aright, 
they would have looked a little harder at him, 
perhaps, and given him back his cheer. 

Boy Jim had never known a father or a mother, 
and his whole life had been spent with his uncle, 
Champion Harrison. Harrison was the Friar s 
Oak blacksmith, and he had his nickname be- 
cause he fought Tom Johnson when he held the 
English belt, and would most certainly have 
beaten him had the Bedfordshire magistrates not 
appeared to break up the fight. For years there 
was no such glutton to take punishment and no 
more finishing hitter than Harrison, though he 
was always, as 1 understand, a slow one upon 
his feet. At last, in a fight with Black Baruk 
the Jew, he finished the battle with such a lash- 
ing hit that he not only knocked his opponent 
over the inner ropes, but he left him betwixt life 
and death for long three weeks. During all this 
time Harrison hved half demented, expecting 
every hour to feel the hand of a Bow Street run- 
ner upon his collar, and to be tried for his life. 
This experience, with the prayers of his wife, 
made him forswear the ring for ever, and carry 
his great muscles into the one trade in which 
they seemed to give him an advantage. There 
was a good business to be done at Friar's Oak 
from the passing traffic and the Sussex farmers, 
so that he soon became the richest of the vil- 
2 11 



RODNEY STONE 

lagers ; and he came to church on a Sunday with 
his wife and his nephew, looking as respectable 
a family man as one would wish to see. 

He was not a tall man, not more than five feet 
seven inches, and it was often said that if he had 
had an extra inch of reach he would have been a 
match for Jackson or Belcher at their best. His 
chest was hke a barrel, and his forearms were 
the most powerful that I have ever seen, with 
deep grooves between the smooth-sweUing mus- 
cles like a piece of water- worn rock. In spite of 
his strength, however, he was of a slow, orderly, 
and kindly disposition, so that there was no man 
more beloved over the whole country-side. His 
heavy, placid, clean-shaven face could set very 
sternly, as I have seen upon occasion ; but for 
me and every child in the village there was ever 
a smile upon his lips and a greeting in his eyes. 
There was not a beggar upon the country-side 
who did not know that his heart was as soft as 
his muscles were hard. 

There was nothing that he liked to talk of 
more than his old battles, but he would stop if 
he saw his little wife coming, for the one great 
shadow in her life was the ever-present fear that 
some day he would throw down sledge and rasp 
and be off to the ring once more. And you 
must be reminded here once for all that that 
former calling of his was by no means at that 

12 



FRIARS OAK 

time in the debased condition to which it after- 
wards fell. Public opinion has gradually become 
opposed to it, for the reason that it came largely 
into the hands of rogues, and because it fostered 
ringside ruffianism. Even the honest and brave 
pugilist was found to draw villainy round him, 
just as the pure and noble racehorse does. For 
this reason the Ring is dying in England, and 
we may hope that when Caunt and Bendigo 
have passed away, they may have none to suc- 
ceed them. But it was different in the days of 
which I speak. Public opinion was then largely 
in its favour, and there were good reasons why 
it should be so. It was a time of war, when 
England with an army and navy composed only 
of those who volunteered to fight because they 
had fighting blood in them, had to encounter, 
as they would now have to encounter, a power 
which could by despotic law turn every citizen 
into a soldier. If the people had not been full 
of this lust for combat, it is certain that England 
must have been overborne. And it was thought, 
and is, on the face of it, reasonable, that a strug- 
gle between two indomitable men, with thirty 
thousand to view it and three million to discuss 
it, did help to set a standard of hardihood and 
endurance. Brutal it was, no doubt, and its bru- 
tality is the end of it ; but it is not so brutal as 
war, which will survive it. Whether it is logical 

13 



RODNEY STONE 

now to teach the people to be peaceful in an age 
when their very existence may come to depend 
upon their being warlike, is a question for wiser 
heads than mine. But that was what we thought 
of it in the days of your grandfathers, and that 
is why you might find statesmen and philan- 
thropists like Windham, Fox, and Althorp at 
the side of the Ring. 

The mere fact that solid men should patronize 
it was enough in itself to prevent the villainy 
which afterwards crept in. For over twenty 
years, in the days of Jackson, Brain, Cribb, the 
Belchers, Pearce, Gully, and the rest, the leaders 
of the Ring were men whose honesty was above 
suspicion ; and those were just the twenty years 
when the Ring may, as I have said, have served 
a national purpose. You have heard how Pearce 
saved the Bristol girl from the burning house, 
how Jackson won the respect and friendship of 
the best men of his age, and how Gully rose to a 
seat in the first Reformed Parliament. These 
were the men who set the standard, and their 
trade carried with it this obvious recommenda- 
tion, that it is one in which no drunken or foul- 
living man could long succeed. There were 
exceptions among them, no doubt — bullies like 
Hickman and brutes like Berks ; in the main, I 
say again that they were honest men, brave and 

enduring to an incredible degree, and a credit to 

U 



FRIAR'S OAK 

the country which produced them. It was, as 
you will see, my fate to see something of them, 
and I speak of what I know. 

In our own village, I can assure you that we 
were very proud of the presence of such a man as 
Champion Harrison, and if folks stayed at the 
inn, they would walk down as far as the smithy 
just to have the sight of him. And he was 
worth seeing, too, especially on a winter's night 
when the red glare of the forge would beat upon 
his great muscles and upon the proud, hawk-face 
of Boy Jim as they heaved and swayed over some 
glowing plough coulter, framing themselves in 
sparks with every blow. He would strike once 
with his thirty-pound swing sledge, and Jim 
twice with his hand hammer ; and the *' Clunk 
— clink, chnk ! clunk — clink, clink ! " would bring 
me flying down the village street, on the chance 
that, since they were both at the anvil, there 
might be a place for me at the bellows. 

Only once during those village years can I re- 
member Champion Harrison showing me for an 
instant the sort of man that he had been. It 
chanced one summer morning, when Boy Jim 
and I were standing by the smithy door, that 
there came a private coach from Brighton, with 
its four fresh horses, and its brass- work shining, 
flying along with such a merry rattle and jing- 
ling, that the Champion came running out with 

15 



RODNEY STONE 

a half-fullered shoe in his tongs to have a look 
at it. A gentleman in a white coachman's cape 
— a Corinthian, as we would call him in those 
days — was driving, and half a dozen of his fel- 
lows, laughing and shouting, were on the top 
behind him. It may have been that the bulk of 
the smith caught his eye, and that he acted in 
pure wantonness, or it may possibly have been 
an accident, but, as he swung past, the twenty- 
foot thong of the driver's whip hissed round, and 
we heard the sharp snap of it across Harrison's 
leather apron. 

" Halloa, master ! " shouted the smith, looking 
after him. "You're not to be trusted on the 
box until you can handle your whip better'n 
that." 

" What's that ? " cried the driver, pulling up 
his team. 

" I bid you have a care, master, or there will 
be some one-eyed folk along the road you drive." 

" Oh, you say that, do you ? " said the driver, 
putting his whip into its socket and pulling off his 
driving-gloves. " I'll have a little talk with you, 
my fine fellow." 

The sporting gentlemen of those days were 
very fine boxers for the most part, for it was the 
mode to take a course of IVIendoza, just as a few 
years afterwards there was no man about town 
who had not had the mufflers on with Jackson. 

16 



FRIAR'S OAK 

Knowing their own prowess, they never refused 
the chance of a wayside adventure, and it was 
seldom indeed that the bargee or the navigator 
had much to boast of after a young blood had 
taken off his coat to him. 

This one swung himself off the box-seat with 
the alacrity of a man who has no doubts about 
the upshot of the quarrel, and after hanging his 
caped coat upon the swingle-bar, he daintily 
turned up the ruffled cuffs of his white cambric 
shirt. 

" I'll pay you for your advice, my man," said he. 

I am sure that the men upon the coach knew 
who the burly smith was, and looked upon it as a 
prime joke to see their companion walk into such 
a trap. They roared with delight, and bellowed 
out scraps of advice to him. 

" Knock some of the soot off him. Lord Fred- 
erick ! " they shouted. " Give the Johnny Raw 
his breakfast. Chuck him in among his own 
cinders ! Sharp's the word, or you'll see the 
back of him." 

Encouraged by these cries, the young aristocrat 
advanced upon his man. The smith never moved, 
but his mouth set grim and hard, while his tufted 
brows came down over his keen, grey eyes. The 
tongs had fallen, and his hands were hanging free. 

" Have a care, master," said he. " You'll get 
pepper if you don't. " 

17 



RODNEY STONE 

Something in the assured voice, and something 
also in the quiet pose, warned the young lord of 
his danger. I saw him look hard at his antag- 
onist, and as he did so, his hands and his jaw 
dropped together. 

" By Gad ! " he cried, " it's Jack Harrison I " 

" My name, master I " 

" And I thought you were some Essex chaw- 
bacon I Why, man, I haven't seen you since 
the day you nearly killed Black Baruk, and cost 
me a cool hundred by doing it." 

How they roared on the coach. 

" Smoked ! Smoked, by Gad ! " they yelled. 
" It's Jack Harrison the bruiser ! Lord Fred- 
erick was going to take on the ex-champion. Give 
him one on the apron, Fred, and see what happens." 

But the driver had already climbed back into 
his perch, laughing as loudly as any of his com- 
panions. 

" We'll let you off this time, Harrison," said 
he. " Are those your sons down there ? " 

*' This is my nephew, master." 

" Here's a guinea for him ! He shall never 
say I robbed him of his uncle." And so, having 
turned the laugh in his favour by his merry way 
of taking it, he cracked his whip, and away they 
flew to make London under the five hours ; 
while Jack Harrison, with his half- fullered shoe 
in his hand, went whistling back to the forge. 

18 



CHAPTER II 
THE WALKER OF CLIFFE ROYAL 

So much for Champion Harrison ! Now, I 
wish to say something more about Boy Jim, not 
only because he was the comrade of my youth, 
but because you will find as you go on that this 
book is his story rather than mine, and that 
there came a time when his name and his fame 
were in the mouths of all England. You will 
bear with me, therefore, while I tell you of his 
character as it was in those days, and especially 
of one very singular adventure whicli neither of 
us are likely to forget. 

It was strange to see Jim with his uncle and 
his aunt, for he seemed to be of another race and 
breed to them. Often I have watched them 
come up the aisle upon a Sunday, first the 
square, thick-set man, and then the little, worn, 
anxious-eyed woman, and last this glorious lad 
with his clear-cut face, his black curls, and his 
step so springy and light that it seemed as if he 
were bound to earth by some lesser tie than the 
heavy-footed villagers round him. He had not 
yet attained his full six foot of stature, but no 
judge of a man (and every woman, at least, is 

19 



RODNEY STONE 

one) could look at his perfect shoulders, his nar- 
row loins, and his proud head that sat upon his 
neck like an eagle upon its perch, without feel- 
ing that sober joy which all that is beautiful in 
Nature gives to us — a vague self- content, as 
though in some way we also had a hand in the 
making of it. 

But we are used to associate beauty with soft- 
ness in a man. I do not know why they should 
be so coupled, and they never were with Jim. 
Of all men that I have known, he was the most 
iron-hard in body and in mind. Who was there 
among us who could walk with him, or run with 
him, or swim with him ? Who on all the coun- 
try-side, save only Boy Jim, would have swung 
himself over Wolstonbury Cliff, and clambered 
down a hundred feet with the mother hawk 
flapping at his ears in the vain struggle to hold 
him from her nest ? He was but sixteen, with 
his gristle not yet all set into bone, when he 
fought and beat Gipsy Lee, of Burgess Hill, 
who called himself the " Cock of the South 
Downs." It was after this that Champion Har- 
rison took his training as a boxer in hand. 

"I'd rather you left millin' alone. Boy Jim," 
said he, " and so had the missus ; but if mill 
you must, it will not be my fault if you cannot 
hold up your hands to anything in the south 
country." 

20 



THE WALKER OF CLIFFE KOYAL 

And it was not long before he made good his 
promise. 

I have said already that Boy Jim had no love 
for his books, but by that 1 meant school-books, 
for when it came to the reading of romances or 
of anything which had a touch of gallantry or 
adventure, there was no tearing him away from 
it until it was finished. AVhen such a book 
came into his hands, Friar's Oak and the smithy 
became a dream to him, and his life was spent 
out upon the ocean or wandering over the broad 
continents with his heroes. And he would draw 
me into his enthusiasms also, so that I was glad 
to play Friday to his Crusoe when he proclaimed 
that the Clump at Clayton was a desert island, 
and that we were cast upon it for a week. But 
when I found that we were actually to sleep out 
there without covering every night, and that he 
proposed that our food should be the sheep of 
the Downs (wild goats he called them) cooked 
upon a fire, which was to be made by the rub- 
bing together of two sticks, my heart failed me, 
and on the very first night I crept away to my 
mother. But Jim stayed out there for the whole 
weary week — a wet week it was, too ! — and came 
back at the end of it looking a deal wilder and 
dirtier than his hero does in the picture-books. 
It is well that he had only promised to stay a 
week, for, if it had been a month, he would have 

21 



RODNEY STONE 

died of cold and hunger before his pride would 
have let him come home. 

His pride ! — that was the deepest thing in all 
Jim's nature. It is a mixed quahty to my mind, 
half a virtue and half a vice : a virtue in holding 
a man out of the dirt ; a vice in making it hard 
for him to rise when once he has fallen. Jim 
was proud down to the very marrow of his 
bones. You remember the guinea that the 
young lord had thrown him from the box of the 
coach ? Two days later somebody picked it 
from the roadside mud. Jim only had seen 
where it had fallen, and he would not deign even 
to point it out to a beggar. Nor would he stoop 
to give a reason in such a case, but would an- 
swer all remonstrances with a curl of his lip and 
a flash of his dark eyes. Even at school he was 
the same, with such a sense of his own dignity, 
that other folk had to think of it too. He 
might say, as he did say, that a right angle was 
a proper sort of angle, or put Panama in Sicily, 
but old Joshua Allen would as soon have 
thought of raising his cane against him as he 
would of letting me off if I had said as much. 
And so it was that, although Jim was the son 
of nobody, and I of a King's officer, it always 
seemed to me to have been a condescension on 
his part that he should have chosen me as his 
friend. 

22 



THE WALKER OF CLIFFE ROYAL 

It was this pride of Boy Jim's which led to an 
adventure which makes me shiver now when I 
think of it. 

It happened in the August of '99, or it may 
have been in the early days of September ; but I 
remember that we heard the cuckoo in Patcham 
Wood, and that Jim said that perhaps it was the 
last of him. I was still at school, but Jim had 
left, he being nigh sixteen and I thirteen. It 
was my Saturday half- holiday, and we spent it, 
as we often did, out upon the Downs. Our 
favourite place was beyond Wolstonbury, where 
we could stretch ourselves upon the soft, springy, 
chalk grass among the plump little Southdown 
sheep, chatting with the shepherds, as they 
leaned upon their queer old Pyecombe crooks, 
made in the days when Sussex turned out more 
iron than all the counties of England. 

It was there that we lay upon that glorious 
afternoon. If we chose to roll upon our right 
sides, the whole weald lay in front of us, with 
the North Downs curving away in olive-green 
folds, with here and there the snow-white rift of 
a chalk-pit ; if we turned upon our left, we over- 
looked the huge blue stretch of the Channel. A 
convoy, as I can well remember, was coming up 
it that day, the timid flock of merchantmen in 
front ; the frigates, like well-trained dogs, upon 
the skirts ; and two burly drover line-of-battle 

23 



RODNEY STONE 

ships rolling along behind them. My fancy was 
soaring out to my father upon the waters, when 
a word from Jim brought it back on to the grass 
like a broken-winged gull. 

" Roddy," said he, " have you heard that ClifFe 
Royal is haunted ? " 

Had I heard it? Of course I had heard it. 
Who was there in all the Down country who 
had not heard of the Walker of ClifFe Royal ? 

" Do you know the story of it, Roddy ? " 

" Why," said I, with some pride, " I ought to 
know it, seeing that my mother's brother. Sir 
Charles Tregellis, was the nearest friend of Lord 
Avon, and was at this card-party when the 
thing happened. I heard the vicar and my 
mother talking about it last week, and it was all 
so clear to me that I might have been there 
when the murder was done." 

" It is a strange story," said Jim, thoughtfully ; 
" but when I asked my aunt about it, she would 
give me no answer ; and as to my uncle, he cut 
me short at the very mention of it." 

" There is a good reason for that," said I, " for 
Lord Avon was, as I have heard, your uncle's 
best friend ; and it is but natural that he would 
not wish to speak of his disgrace." 

" Tell me the story, Roddy." 

" It is an old one now — fourteen years old — 

and yet they have not got to the end of it. 

24 



THE WALKER OF CLIFFE ROYAL 

There were four of them who had come down 
from London to spend a few days in Lord 
Avon's old house. One was his own young 
brother, Captain Barrington ; another was his 
cousin, Sir Lothian Hume ; Sir Charles Tre- 
gellis, my uncle, was the third ; and Lord Avon 
the fourth. They are fond of playing cards for 
money, these great people, and they played and 
played for two days and a night. Lord Avon 
lost, and Sir Lothian lost, and my uncle lost, 
and Captain Barrington won until he could win 
no more. He won their money, but above all 
he won papers from his elder brother which 
meant a great deal to him. It was late on a 
JNIonday night that they stopped playing. On 
the Tuesday morning Captain Barrington was 
found dead beside his bed with his throat cut. 

" And Lord Avon did it ? " 

*' His papers were found burned in the grate, 
his wristband was clutched in the dead man's 
hand, and his knife lay beside the body." 

" Did they hang him, then ? " 

" They were too slow in laying hands upon 
him. He waited until he saw that they had 
brought it home to him, and then he fled. He 
has never been seen since, but it is said that he 
reached America." 

" And the ghost walks? " 

" There are many who have seen it." 

25 



RODNEY STONE 

" Why is the house still empty ? " 

" Because it is in the keeping of the law. 
Lord Avon had no children, and Sir Lothian 
Hume — the same who was at the card-party — is 
his nephew and heir. But he can touch nothing 
until he can prove Lord Avon to be dead." 

Jim lay silent for a bit, plucking at the short 
grass with his fingers. 

" Roddy," said he at last, " will you come with 
me to-night and look for the ghost ? " 

It turned me cold, the very thought of it. 

" My mother would not let me." 

" Slip out when she's abed. I'll wait for you 
at the smithy." 

" ChfFe Royal is locked." 

" I'll open a window easy enough." 

" I'm afraid, Jim." 

" But you are not afraid if you are with me, 
Roddy. I'll promise you that no ghost shall 
hurt you." 

So I gave him my word that I would come, 
and then all the rest of the day I went about 
the most sad-faced lad in Sussex. It was all 
very well for Boy Jim ! It was that pride of his 
which was taking him there. He would go be- 
cause there was no one else on the country-side 
that would dare. But I had no pride of that 
sort. I was quite of the same way of thinking 

as the others, and would as soon have thought 

26 



THE WALKER OF CLIFFE ROYAL 

of passing my night at Jacob's gibbet on Ditch- 
ling Common as in the haunted house of Chffe 
Royal. Still, I could not bring myself to desert 
Jim ; and so, as I say, I slunk about the house 
with so pale and peaky a face that my dear 
mother would have it that I had been at the 
green apples, and sent me to bed early with a 
dish of camomile tea for my supper. 

England went to rest betimes in those days, 
for there were few who could afford the price of 
candles. When I looked out of my window just 
after the clock had gone ten, there was not a 
light in the village save only at the inn. It was 
but a few feet from the ground, so I slipped out, 
and there was Jim waiting for me at the smithy 
corner. We crossed John's Common together, 
and so past Ridden's Farm, meeting only one or 
two riding officers upon the way. There was a 
brisk wind blowing, and the moon kept peeping 
through the rifts of the scud, so that our road 
was sometimes silver-clear, and sometimes so 
black that we found ourselves among the bram- 
bles and gorse- bushes which lined it. We came 
at last to the wooden gate with the high stone 
pillars by the roadside, and, looking through be- 
tween the rails, we saw the long avenue of oaks, 
and at the end of this ill-boding tunnel, the pale 
face of the house ghmmered in the moonshine. 

That would have been enough for me, that 

3 27 



RODNEY STONE 

one glimpse of it, and the sound of the night 
wind sighing and groaning among the branches. 
But Jim swung the gate open, and up we went, 
the gravel squeaking beneath our tread. It tow- 
ered high, the old house, with many little win- 
dows in which the moon glinted, and with a 
strip of water running round three sides of it. 
The arched door stood right in the face of us, 
and on one side a lattice hung open upon its 
hinges. 

" We're in luck, Roddy," whispered Jim. 
" Here's one of the windows open." 

"Don't you think we've gone far enough, 
Jim ? " said I, with my teeth chattering. 

" I'll hft you in first." 

" No, no, I'll not go first." 

" Then I will." He gripped the sill, and had 
his knee on it in an instant. " Now, Roddy, 
give me your hands." With a pull he had me 
up beside him, and a moment later we were both 
in the haunted house. 

How hollow it sounded when we jumped down 
on to the wooden floor ! There was such a sud- 
den boom and reverberation that we both stood 
silent for a moment. Then Jim burst out laugh- 
ing. 

" What an old drum of a place it is ! " he cried ; 
" we'll strike a light, Roddy, and see where we 

are." 

28 



THE WALKER OF CLIFFE ROYAL 

He had brought a candle and a tinder-box in 
his pocket. When the flame burned up, we saw 
an arched stone roof above our heads, and broad 
deal shelves all round us covered with dusty 
dishes. It was the pantry. 

" I'll show you round," said Jim, merrily ; and, 
pushing the door open, he led the way into the 
hall. I remember the high, oak-panelled walls, 
with the heads of deer jutting out, and a single 
white bust, which sent my heart into my mouth, 
in the corner. Many rooms opened out of this, 
and we wandered from one to the other — the 
kitchens, the still-room, the morning-room, the 
dining-room, all fllled with the same choking 
smell of dust and of mildew. 

" This is where they played the cards, Jim," 
said I, in a hushed voice. " It was on that very 
table." 

" AVhy, here are the cards themselves ! " cried 
he ; and he pulled a brown towel from some- 
thing in the centre of the sideboard. Sure 
enough it was a pile of playing-cards — forty 
packs, I should think, at the least — which had 
lain there ever since that tragic game which was 
played before I was born. 

" I wonder whence that stair leads ? " said Jim. 

" Don't go up there, Jim ! " I cried, clutching 
at his arm. " That must lead to the room of the 
murder." 

29 



RODNEY STONE 

*' How do you know that ? " 

" The vicar said that they saw on the ceil- 
ing Oh, Jim, you can see it even now ! " 

He held up his candle, and there was a great, 
dark smudge upon the white plaster above us. 

" I believe you're right," said he ; " but any- 
how I'm going to have a look at it." 

" Don't, Jim, don't ! " I cried. 

" Tut, Roddy ! you can stay here if you are 
afraid. I won't be more than a minute. There's 

no use going on a ghost hunt unless Great 

Lord, there's something coming down the stairs ! " 

I heard it too — a shuffling footstep in the room 
above, and then a creak from the steps, and then 
another creak, and another. I saw Jim's face as 
if it had been carved out of ivory, with his parted 
lips and his staring eyes fixed upon the black 
square of the stair opening. He still held the 
light, but his fingers twitched, and with every 
twitch the shadows sprang from the walls to the 
ceiling. As to myself, my knees gave way un- 
der me, and I found myself on the floor crouch- 
ing down behind Jim, with a scream frozen in 
my throat. And still the step came slowly from 
stair to stair. 

Then, hardly daring to look and yet unable to 
turn away my eyes, I saw a figure dimly outlined 
in the corner upon which the stair opened. 
There was a silence in which I could hear my 

30 



THE WALKER OF CLIFFE ROYAL 

poor heart thumping, and then when I looked 
again the figure was gone, and the low creak, 
creak was heard once more upon the stairs. 
Jim sprang after it, and I was left half-fainting 
in the moonlight. 

But it was not for long. He was down again 
in a minute, and, passing his hand under my 
arm, he half led and half carried me out of the 
house. It was not until we were in the fresh 
night air again that he opened his mouth. 

" Can you stand, Roddy ? " 

"Yes, but I'm shaking." 

" So am I," said he, passing his hand over his 
forehead. " I ask your pardon, Roddy. I was a 
fool to bring you on such an errand. But I never 
believed in such things. I know better now." 

" Could it have been a man, Jim ? " I asked, 
plucking up my courage now that I could hear 
the dogs barking on the farms. 

" It was a spirit, Rodney." 

" How do you know ? " 

" Because I followed it and saw it vanish into 
a wall, as easily as an eel into sand. Why, 
Roddy, what's amiss now ? " 

JVIy fears were all back upon me, and every 
nerve creeping with horror. 

" Take me away, Jim ! Take me away ! " I 
cried. 

I was glaring down the avenue, and his eyes 

31 



RODNEY STONE 

followed mine. Amid the gloom of the oak 
trees something was coming towards us. 

" Quiet, Roddy ! " whispered Jim. " By heav- 
ens, come what may, my arms are going round 
it this time." 

We crouched as motionless as the trunks 
behind us. Heavy steps ploughed their way 
through the soft gravel, and a broad figure 
loomed upon us in the darkness. 

Jim sprang upon it like a tiger. 

" Yoiire not a spirit, anyway ! " he cried. 

The man gave a shout of surprise, and then a 
growl of rage. 

" What the deuce ! " he roared, and then, "I'll 
break your neck if you don't let go." 

The threat might not have loosened Jim's 
grip, but the voice did. 

" Why, uncle ! " he cried. 

" Well, I'm blessed if it isn't Boy Jim I And 
what's this? Why, it's young Master Rodney 
Stone, as I'm a living sinner ! What in the 
world are you two doing up at Cliffe Royal at 
this time of night ? " 

We had all moved out into the moonlight, 
and there was Champion Harrison with a big 
bundle on his arm, and such a look of amaze- 
ment upon his ftice as would have brought a 
smile back on to mine had my heart not still 
been cramped with fear. 

32 



THE WALKER OF CLIFFE ROYAL 

" We re exploring," said Jim. 

" Exploring, are you ? Well, I don't think 
you were meant to be Captain Cooks, either of 
you, for I never saw such a pair of peeled-turnip 
faces. Why, Jim, what are you afraid of? " 

" I'm not afraid, uncle. I never was afraid ; 
but spirits are new to me, and " 

" Spirits ? " 

" I've been in ClifFe Royal, and we've seen the 
ghost." 

The Champion gave a whistle. 

" That's the game, is it ? " said he. "Did you 
have speech with it ? " 

" It vanished first." 

The Champion whistled once more. 

"I've heard there is something of the sort up 
yonder," said he ; " but it's not a thing as I 
would advise you to meddle with. There's 
enough trouble with the folk of this world. Boy 
Jim, without going out of your way to mix up 
with those of another. As to young INIaster 
Rodney Stone, if his good mother saw that 
white face of his, she'd never let him come to 
the smithy more. Walk slowly on, and I'll see 
you back to Friar's Oak." 

We had gone half a mile, perhaps, when the 
Champion overtook us, and I could not but ob- 
serve that the bundle was no longer under his 
arm. We were nearly at the smithy before Jim 

33 



RODNEY STONE 

asked the question which was akeady in my 
mind. 

" What took you up to ChfFe Royal, uncle ? " 
*' Well, as a man gets on in years," said the 
Champion, " there's many a duty turns up that 
the likes of you have no idea of. When you're 
near forty yourself, you'll maybe know the truth 
of what I say." 

So that was all we could draw from him ; but, 
young as I was, I had heard of coast smuggling 
and of packages carried to lonely places at night, 
so that from that time on, if I had heard that 
the preventives had made a capture, I was never 
easy until I saw the jolly face of Champion 
Harrison looking out of his smithy door. 



34 



CHAPTER III 
THE PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

I HAVE told you something about Friar's Oak, 
and about the hfe that we led there. Now that 
my memory goes back to the old place it would 
gladly linger, for every thread which I draw from 
the skein of the past brings out half a dozen 
others that were entangled with it. I was in 
two minds when I began whether I had enough 
in me to make a book of, and now I know that 
I could write one about Friar's Oak alone, and 
the folk whom I knew in my childhood. They 
were hard and uncouth, some of them, I doubt 
not ; and yet, seen through the golden haze of 
time, they all seem sweet and lovable. There 
was our good vicar, Mr. Jefferson, who loved 
the whole world save only JNIr. Slack, the Baptist 
minister of Clayton ; and there was kindly JNIr. 
Slack, who was all men's brother save only of 
Mr. Jefferson, the vicar of Friar's Oak. Then 
there was Monsieur Rudin, the French Royalist 
refugee who lived over on the Pangdean road, 
and who, when the news of a victory came in, 
was convulsed with joy because we had beaten 
Buonaparte, and shaken with rage because we 

35 



RODNEY STONE 

had beaten the French, so that after the Nile he 
wept for a whole day out of delight and then for 
another one out of fury, alternately clapping his 
hands and stamping his feet. Well I remember 
his thin, upright figure and the way in which he 
jauntily twirled his little cane ; for cold and hun- 
ger could not cast him down, though we knew 
that he had his share of both. Yet he was so 
proud and had such a grand manner of talking, 
that no one dared to offer him a cloak or a meal. 
I can see his face now, with a flush over each 
craggy cheek-bone when the butcher made him 
the present of some ribs of beef. He could not 
but take it, and yet whilst he was stalking off he 
threw a proud glance over his shoulder at the 
butcher, and he said, " Monsieur, I have a dog ! " 
Yet it was Monsieur Rudin and not his dog who 
looked plumper for a week to come. 

Then I remember Mr. Paterson, the farmer, 
who was what you would now call a Radical, 
though at that time some called him a Priestley- 
ite, and some a Fox-ite, and nearly everybody a 
traitor. It certainly seemed to me at the time 
to be very wicked that a man should look glum 
when he heard of a British victory ; and when 
they burned his straw image at the gate of his 
farm, Boy Jim and I were among those who lent 
a hand. But we were bound to confess that he 

was game, though he might be a traitor, for 

36 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

down he came, striding into the midst of us with 
his brown coat and his buckled shoes, and the 
fire beating upon his grim, schoolmaster face. 
My word, how he rated us, and how glad we 
were at last to sneak quietly away. 

" You livers of a lie ! " said he. " You and 
those like you have been preaching peace for 
nigh two thousand years, and cutting throats the 
whole time. If the money that is lost in taking 
French lives were spent in saving English ones, 
you would have more right to burn candles in 
your windows. Who are you that dare to come 
here to insult a law-abiding man ? " 

" We are the people of England ! " cried 
young Master Ovington, the son of the Tory 
Squire. 

" You ! you horse-racing, cock-fighting ne'er- 
do-weel ! Do you presume to talk for the peo- 
ple of England ? They are a deep, strong, silent 
stream, and you are the scum, the bubbles, the 
poor, silly froth that floats upon the surface." 

We thought him very wicked then, but, look- 
ing back, I am not sure that we were not very 
wicked ourselves. 

And then there were the smuofglers ! The 
Downs swarmed with them, for since there 
might be no lawful trade betwixt France and 
England, it had all to run in that channel. I 
have been up on St. John's Common upon a 

37 



RODNEY STONE 

dark night, and, lying among the bracken, I have 
seen as many as seventy mules and a man at 
the head of each go flitting past me as silently 
as trout in a stream. Not one of them but 
bore its two ankers of the right French cognac, 
or its bale of silk of Lyons and lace of Valen- 
ciennes. I knew Dan Scales, the head of them, 
and I knew Tom Hislop, the riding officer, and 
I remember the night they met. 

" Do you fight, Dan ? " asked Tom. 

" Yes, Tom ; thou must fight for it." 

On which Tom drew his pistol, and blew 
Dan's brains out. 

" It was a sad thing to do," he said afterwards, 
" but I knew Dan was too good a man for me, 
for we tried it out before." 

It was Tom who paid a poet from Brighton to 
write the lines for the tombstone, which we all 
thought were very true and good, beginning — 

" Alas ! Swift flew the fatal lead 
Which pierced through the young man's head. 
He instantly fell^ resigned his breath. 
And closed his languid eyes in death." 

There was more of it, and I dare say it is all still 
to be read in Patcham Churchyard. 

One day, about the time of our Cliffe Royal 
adventure, I was seated in the cottage looking 
round at the curios which my father had fastened 

38 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

on to the walls, and wishing, like the lazy lad 
that I was, that Mr. Lilly had died before ever 
he wrote his Latin grammar, when my mother, 
who was sitting knitting in the window, gave a 
little cry of surprise. 

" Good gracious ! " she cried. *' What a 
vulgar-looking woman ! " 

It was so rare to hear my mother say a hard 
word against anybody (unless it were General 
Buonaparte) that I was across the room and at 
the window in a jump. A pony-chaise was com- 
ing slowly down the village street, and in it was 
the queerest-looking person that I had ever seen. 
She was very stout, with a face that was of so 
dark a red that it shaded away into purple over 
the nose and cheeks. She wore a great hat with 
a white curling ostrich feather, and from under 
its brim her two bold, black eyes stared out witli 
a look of anger and defiance as if to tell the folk 
that she thought less of them than they could do 
of her. She had some sort of scarlet pelisse with 
white swansdown about her neck, and she held 
the reins slack in her hands, while the pony wan- 
dered from side to side of the road as the fancy 
took him. Each time the chaise swayed, her 
head with the great hat swayed also, so that 
sometimes we saw the crown of it and some- 
times the brim. 

" What a dreadful sight ! " cried my mother. 

39 



RODNEY STONE 

*' What is amiss with her, mother ? " 

" Heaven forgive me if I misjudge her, Rod- 
ney, but I think that the unfortunate woman 
has been drinking." 

" Why," I cried, " she has pulled the chaise 
up at the smithy. I'll find out all the news for 
you ; " and, catching up my cap, away I scam- 
pered. 

Champion Harrison had been shoeing a horse 
at the forge door, and when I got into the street 
I could see him with the creature's hoof still 
under his arm, and the rasp in his hand, kneel- 
ing down amid the white parings. The woman 
was beckoning him from the chaise, and he star- 
ing up at her with the queerest expression upon 
his face. Presently he threw down his rasp and 
went across to her, standing by the wheel and 
shaking his head as he talked to her. For my 
part, I slipped into the smithy, where Boy Jim 
was finishing the shoe, and I watched the neat- 
ness of his work and the deft way in which he 
turned up the caulkens. When he had done 
with it he carried it out, and there was the 
strange woman still talking with his uncle. 

"Is that he ? " I heard her ask. 

Champion Harrison nodded. 

She looked at Jim, and I never saw such eyes 
in a human head, so large, and black, and won- 
derful. Boy as I was, I knew that, in spite of 

40 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

that bloated face, this woman had once been 
very beautiful. She put out a hand, with all 
the fingers going as if she were playing on 
the harpsichord, and she touched Jim on the 
shoulder. 

" I hope — I hope you're well," she stam- 
mered. 

" Very well, ma'am," said Jim, staring from 
her to his uncle. 

" And happy too ? " 

" Yes, ma'am, I thank you." 

" Nothing that you crave for ? " 

" Why, no, ma'am, I have all that I lack." 

" That will do, Jim," said his uncle, in a stern 
voice. " Blow up the forge again, for that shoe 
wants reheating." 

But it seemed as if the woman had something 
else that she would say, for she was angry that 
he should be sent away. Her eyes gleamed, and 
her head tossed, while the smith with his two 
big hands outspread seemed to be soothing her 
as best he could. For a long time they whis- 
pered until at last she appeared to be satisfied. 

" To-morrow, then ? " she cried loud out. 

" To-morrow," he answered. 

" You keep your word and I'll keep mine," 

said she, and dropped the lash on the pony's 

back. The smith stood with the rasp in his 

hand, looking after her until she was just a little 

41 



RODNEY STONE 

red spot on the white road. Then he turned, 
and I never saw his face so grave. 

" Jim," said he, " that's Miss Hinton, who has 
come to hve at The Maples, out Anstey Cross 
way. She's taken a kind of a fancy to you, Jim, 
and maybe she can help you on a bit. I prom- 
ised her that you would go over and see her to- 
morrow. " 

" I don't want her help, uncle, and I don't 
want to see her." 

" But I've promised, Jim, and you wouldn't 
make me out a har. She does but want to talk 
with you, for it is a lonely life she leads." 

" What would she want to talk with such as 
me about ? " 

" Why, I cannot say that, but she seemed 
very set upon it, and women have their fancies. 
There's young Master Stone here who wouldn't 
refuse to go and see a good lady, I'll warrant, if he 
thought he might better his fortune by doing so." 

" Well, uncle, I'll go if Roddy Stone will go 
with me," said Jim. 

" Of course he'll go. Won't you. Master 
Rodney ? " 

So it ended in my saying " yes," and back I 
went with all my news to my mother, who 
dearly loved a little bit of gossip. She shook 
her head when she heard where I was going, but 
she did not say nay, and so it was settled. 

42 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

It was a good four miles of a walk, but when 
we reached it you would not wish to see a more 
cosy little house : all honeysuckle and creepers, 
with a wooden porch and lattice windows. A 
common-looking woman opened the door for us. 

" Miss Hinton cannot see you," said she. 

" But she asked us to come," said Jim. 

" I can't help that," cried the woman, in a rude 
voice. " I tell you that she can't see you." 

We stood irresolute for a minute. 

"Maybe you would just tell her I am here," 
said Jim, at last. 

*' Tell her ! How am I to tell her when she 
couldn't so much as hear a pistol in her ears ? 
Try and tell her yourself, if you have a mind 
to." 

She threw open a door as she spoke, and 
there, in a reclining chair at the further end of 
the room, we caught a glimpse of a figure all 
lumped together, huge and shapeless, with tails 
of black hair hanging down. The sound of 
dreadful, swine-like breathing fell upon our ears. 
It was but a glance, and then we were off hot- 
foot for home. As for me, I was so young that 
I was not sure whether this was funny or terri- 
ble ; but when I looked at Jim to see how he 
took it, he was looking quite white and ill. 

" You'll not tell any one, Roddy," said he. 

" Not unless it's my mother." 

.4 43 



RODNEY STONE 

" I won't even tell my uncle. I'll say she was 
ill, the poor lady ! It's enough that we should 
have seen her in her shame, without its being 
the gossip of the village. It makes me feel sick 
and heavy at heart." 

" She was so yesterday, Jim." 

" Was she ? I never marked it. But I know 
that she has kind eyes and a kind heart, for I saw 
the one in the other when she looked at me. 
Maybe it's the want of a friend that has driven 
her to this." 

It blighted his spirits for days, and when it had 
all gone from my mind it was brought back to 
me by his manner. But it was not to be our 
last memory of the lady with the scarlet pelisse, 
for before the week was out Jim came round to 
ask me if I would again go up with him. 

" My uncle has had a letter," said he. " She 
would speak with me, and I would be easier if 
you came with me, Rod." 

For me it was only a pleasure outing, but I 
could see, as we drew near the house, that Jim 
was troubling in his mind lest we should find 
that things were amiss. His fears were soon set 
at rest, however, for we had scarce cUcked the 
garden gate before the woman was out of the 
door of the cottage and running down the path 
to meet us. She was so strange a figure, with 
some sort of purple wrapper on, and her big, 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

flushed face smiling out of it, that I might, if I 
had been alone, have taken to my heels at the 
sight of her. Even Jim stopped for a moment 
as if he were not very sure of himself, but her 
hearty ways soon set us at our ease. 

" It is indeed good of you to come and see an 
old, lonely woman," said she, " and I owe you 
an apology that I should give you a fruitless 
journey on Tuesday, but in a sense you were 
yourselves the cause of it, since the thought of 
your coming had excited me, and any excitement 
throws me into a nervous fever. My poor nerves ! 
You can see for yourselves how they serve me." 

She held out her twitching hands as she spoke. 
Then she passed one of them through Jim's arm, 
and walked with him up the path. 

" You must let me know you, and know you 
well," said she. " Your uncle and aunt are quite 
old acquaintances of mine, and though you can- 
not remember me, I have held you in my arms 
when you were an infant. Tell me, little man," 
she added, turning to me, " what do you call 
your friend ? " 

" Boy Jim, ma'am," said I. 

" Then if you will not think me forward, I will 
call you Boy Jim also. We elderly people have 
our privileges, you know. And now you shall 
come in with me, and we will take a dish of tea 
together." 

45 



RODNEY STONE 

She led the way into a cosy room — the same 
which we had caught a ghmpse of when last we 
came — and there, in the middle, was a table with 
white napery, and shining glass, and gleaming 
china, and red-cheeked apples piled upon a cen- 
tre-dish, and a great plateful of smoking muffins 
which the cross-faced maid had just carried in. 
You can think that we did justice to all the good 
things, and Miss Hinton would ever keep press- 
ing us to pass our cup and to fill our plate. Twice 
during our meal she rose from her chair and with- 
drew into a cupboard at the end of the room, 
and each time I saw Jim's face cloud, for we 
heard a gentle clink of glass against glass. 

" Come now, little man," said she to me, when 
the table had been cleared. " Why are you 
looking round so much ? " 

" Because there are so many pretty things upon 
the walls." 

"And which do you think the prettiest of 
them ? " 

" Why, that ! " said I, pointing to a picture 

which hung opposite to me. It was of a tall and 

slender girl, with the rosiest cheeks and the ten- 

derest eyes — so daintily dressed, too, that 1 had 

never seen anything more perfect. She had a 

posy of flowers in her hand and another one was 

lying upon the planks of wood upon which she 

was standing. 

46 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

"Oh, that's the prettiest, is it?" said she, 
laughing. " Well, now, walk up to it, and let us 
hear what is writ beneath it." 

I did as she asked, and read out : " Miss Polly 
Hinton, as ' Peggy,' in The Country IVif'e, played 
for her benefit at the Haymarket Theatre, Sep- 
tember 14th, 1782." 

" It's a play-actress," said I. 

" Oh, you rude little boy, to say it in such a 
tone," said she ; "as if a play-actress wasn't as 
good as any one else. Why, 'twas but the other 
day that the Duke of Clarence, who may come 
to call himself King of England, married Mrs. 
Jordan, who is herself only a play-actress. And 
whom think you that this one is ? " 

She stood under the picture with her arms 
folded across her great body, and her big black 
eyes looking from one to the other of us. 

" Why, where are your eyes ? " she cried at 
last. " / was Miss Polly Hinton of the Hay- 
market Theatre. And perhaps you never heard 
the name before ? " 

We were compelled to confess that we never 
had. And the very name of play-actress had 
filled us both with a kind of vague horror, hke 
the country-bred folk that we were. To us 
they were a class apart, to be hinted at rather 
than named, with the wrath of the Almighty 
hanging over them like a thundercloud. Indeed, 

47 



RODNEY STONE 

His judgments seemed to be in visible operation 
before us when we looked upon what this woman 
was, and what she had been. 

" Well," said she, laughing like one who is hurt, 
" you have no cause to say anything, for I read 
on your face what you have been taught to think 
of me. So this is the upbringing that you have 
had, Jim — to think evil of that which you do not 
understand ! I wish you had been in the theatre 
that very night with Prince Florizel and four 
Dukes in the boxes, and all the wits and maca- 
ronis of London rising at me in the pit. If Lord 
Avon had not given me a cast in his carriage, I 
had never got my flowers back to my lodgings 
in York Street, Westminster. And now two lit- 
tle country lads are sitting in judgment upon me!" 

Jim's pride brought a flush on to his cheeks, 
for he did not like to be called a country lad, or 
to have it supposed that he was so far behind the 
grand folk in London. 

" I have never been inside a play-house," said 
he ; "I know nothing of them." 

" Nor I either." 

" Well," said she, " I am not in voice, and it is 
ill to play in a little room with but two to listen, 
but you must conceive me to be the Queen of 
the Peruvians, who is exhorting her countrymen 
to rise up against the Spaniards, who are op- 
pressing them." 

48 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

And straightway that coarse, swollen woman 
became a queen — the grandest, haughtiest queen 
that you could dream of — and she turned upon 
us with such words of fire, such lightning eyes 
and sweeping of her white hand, that she held us 
spellbound in our chairs. Her voice was soft 
and sweet, and persuasive at the first, but louder 
it rang and louder as it spoke of wrongs and 
freedom and the joys of death in a good cause, 
until it thrilled into my every nerve, and I asked 
nothing more than to run out of the cottage 
and to die then and there in the cause of my 
country. And then in an instant she changed. 
She was a poor woman now, who had lost 
her only child, and who was bewailing it. Her 
voice was full of tears, and what she said was 
so simple, so true, that we both seemed to 
see the dead babe stretched tliere on the carpet 
before us, and we could have joined in with 
words of pity and of grief And then, before 
our cheeks were dry, she was back into her old 
self again. 

" How like you that, then ? " she cried. " That 
was my way in the days when Sally Siddons 
would turn green at the name of Polly Hinton. 
It's a fine play, is Pizan^o.'" 

" And who wrote it, ma'am ? " 

" Who wrote it ? I never heard. What mat- 
ter who did the writing of it ! But there are 

49 



RODNEY STONE 

some great lines for one who knows how they 
should be spoken." 

" And you play no longer, ma'am ? " 

" No, Jim, I left the boards when — when I 
was weary of them. But my heart goes back to 
them sometimes. It seems to me there is no 
smell hke that of the hot oil in the footlights and 
of the oranges in the pit. But you are sad, 
Jim." 

"It was but the thought of that poor woman 
and her child." 

" Tut, never think about her ! I will soon 
wipe her from your mind. This is ' Miss Pris- 
cilla Tomboy,' from The Romp. You must con- 
ceive that the mother is speaking, and that the 
forward young minx is answering." 

And she began a scene between the two of 
them, so exact in voice and manner that it seemed 
to us as if there were really two folk before us : 
the stern old mother with her hand up hke an 
ear- trumpet, and her flouncing, bouncing daugh- 
ter. Her great figure danced about with a won- 
derful lightness, and she tossed her head and 
pouted her lips as she answered back to the old, 
bent figure that addressed her. Jim and I had 
forgotten our tears, and were holding our ribs 
before she came to the end of it. 

" That is better," said she, smiling at our 

laughter. " I would not have you go back to 

50 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

Friar's Oak with long faces, or maybe they would 
not let you come to me again." 

She vanished into her cupboard, and came out 
with a bottle and glass, which she placed upon 
the table. 

" You are too young for strong waters," she 
said, " but this talking gives one a dryness, 
and " 

Then it was that Boy Jim did a wonderful 
thing. He rose from his chair, and he laid his 
hand upon the bottle. 

" Don't ! " said he. 

She looked him in the face, and I can still see 
those black eyes of hers softening before the gaze. 

" Am I to have none ? " 

** Please, don't." 

With a quick movement she wrested the bottle 
out of his hand and raised it up so that for a 
moment it entered my head that she was about 
to drink it off. Then she flung it through the 
open lattice, and we heard the crash of it on the 
path outside. 

" There, Jim ! " said she ; " does that satisfy 
you ? It's long since any one cared whether I 
drank or no." 

" You are too good and kind for that," said he. 

" Good ! " she cried. " Well, I love that you 
should think me so. And it would make you 
happier if I kept from the brandy, Jim ? Well, 

51 



RODNEY STONE 

then, I'll make you a promise, if you'll make me 
one in return." 

" What's that, miss ? " 

" No drop shall pass my lips, Jim, if you will 
swear, wet or shine, blow or snow, to come up 
here twice in every week, that I may see you 
and speak with you, for, indeed, there are times 
when I am very lonesome." 

So the promise was made, and very faithfully 
did Jim keep it, for many a time when I have 
wanted him to go fishing or rabbit-snaring, he 
has remembered that it was his day for Miss 
Hinton, and has tramped off to Anstey Cross. 
At first I think that she found her share of the 
bargain hard to keep, and I have seen Jim come 
back with a black face on him, as if things were 
going amiss. But after a time the fight was 
won — as all fights are won if one does but fight 
long enough — and in the year before my father 
came back Miss Hinton had become another 
woman. And it was not her ways only, but 
herself as well, for from being the person that I 
have described, she became in one twelvemonth 
as fine a looking lady as there was in the whole 
country-side. Jim was prouder of it by far than 
of anjrthing he had had a hand in in his life, but it 
was only to me that he ever spoke about it, for 
he had that tenderness towards her that one has 
for those whom one has helped. And she helped 

52 



PLAY-ACTRESS OF ANSTEY CROSS 

him also, for by her talk of the world and of 
what she had seen, she took his mind away from 
the Sussex country-side and prepared it for a 
broader life beyond. So matters stood between 
them at the time when peace was made and my 
father came home from the sea. 



53 



CHAPTER IV 

THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

Many a woman's knee was on the ground, and 
many a woman's soul spent itself in joy and 
thankfulness when the news came with the fall 
of the leaf in 1801 that the preliminaries of 
peace had been settled. All England waved 
her gladness by day and twinkled it by night. 
Even in little Friar's Oak we had our flags fly- 
ing bravely, and a candle in every window, with 
a big G.R. guttering in the wind over the door 
of the inn. Folk were weary of the war, for we 
had been at it for eight years, taking Holland, 
and Spain, and France each in turn and all to- 
gether. All that we had learned during that 
time was that our little army was no match for 
the French on land, and that our large navy was 
more than a match for them upon the water. 
We had gained some credit, which we were 
sorely in need of after the American business ; 
and a few Colonies, which were welcome also 
for the same reason ; but our debt had gone on 
rising and our consols sinking, until even Pitt 
stood aghast. Still, if we had known that there 
never could be peace between Napoleon and 

54 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

ourselves, and that this was only the end of 
a round and not of the battle, we should have 
been better advised had we fought it out with- 
out a break. As it was, the French got back 
the twenty thousand good seamen whom we 
had captured, and a fine dance they led us with 
their Boulogne flotillas and fleets of invasion 
before we were able to catch them again. 

My father, as I remember him best, was a 
tough, strong little man, of no great breadth", 
but solid and well put together. His face was 
burned of a reddish colour, as bright as a flower- 
pot, and in spite of his age (for he was only forty 
at the time of which I speak) it was shot with 
lines, which deepened if he were in any way per- 
turbed, so that I have seen him turn on the 
instant from a youngish man to an elderly. His 
eyes especially were meshed round with wrinkles, 
as is natural for one who had puckered them all 
his life in facing foul wind and bitter weather. 
These eyes were, perhaps, his strangest feature, 
for they were of a very clear and beautiful blue, 
which shone the brighter out of that ruddy set- 
ting. By nature he must have been a fair- 
skinned man, for his upper brow, where his cap 
came over it, was as white as mine, and his close- 
cropped hair was tawny. 

He had served, as he was proud to say, in the 
last of our ships which had been chased out of 

55 



RODNEY STONE 

the Mediterranean in '97, and in the first which 
had re-entered it in '98. He was under Miller, 
as third lieutenant of the Theseus, when our 
fleet, like a pack of eager fox hounds in a covert, 
was dashing from Sicily to Syria and back again 
to Naples, trying to pick up the lost scent. 
With the same good fighting man he served 
at the Nile, where the men of his command 
sponged and rammed and trained until, when 
the last tricolour had come down, they hove up 
the sheet anchor and fell dead asleep upon the 
top of each other under the capstan bars. Then, 
as a second lieutenant, he was in one of those 
grim three-deckers with powder-blackened hulls 
and crimson scupper-holes, their spare cables tied 
round their keels and over their bulwarks to 
hold them together, which carried the news into 
the Bay of Naples. From thence, as a reward 
for his services, he was transferred as first lieu- 
tenant to the Aurora frigate, engaged in cutting 
off supplies from Genoa, and in her he still re- 
mained until long after peace was declared. 

How well I can remember his home-coming ! 
Though it is now eight- and-forty years ago, it is 
clearer to me than the doings of last week, for 
the memory of an old man is like one of those 
glasses which shows out what is at a distance 
and blurs all that is near. 

My mother had been in a tremble ever since 

56 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

the first rumour of the prehminaries came to our 
ears, for she knew that he might come as soon 
as his message. She said Uttle, but she sad- 
dened my hfe by insisting that I should be for 
ever clean and tidy. With every rumble of 
wheels, too, her eyes would glance towards the 
door, and her hands steal up to smooth her 
pretty black hair. She had embroidered a white 
" Welcome " upon a blue ground, with an an- 
chor in red upon each side, and a border of laurel 
leaves ; and this was to hang upon the two lilac 
bushes which flanked the cottage door. He 
could not have left the Mediterranean before we 
had this finished, and every morning she looked 
to see if it were in its place and ready to be 
hanged. 

But it was a weary time before the peace was 
ratified, and it was April of next year before our 
great day came round to us. It had been rain- 
ing all morning, I remember — a soft spring rain, 
which sent up a rich smell from the brown earth 
and pattered pleasantly upon the budding chest- 
nuts behind our cottage. The sun had shone 
out in the evening, and I had come down with 
my fishing-rod (for I had promised Boy Jim to 
go with him to the mill-stream), when what 
should I see but a post-chaise with two smoking 
horses at the gate, and there in the open door of 

it were my mother s black skirt and her little 

57 



RODNEY STONE 

feet jutting out, with two blue arms for a waist- 
belt, and all the rest of her buried in the chaise. 
Away I ran for the motto, and I pinned it up 
on the bushes as we had agreed, but when I had 
finished there were the skirts and the feet and 
the blue arms just the same as before. 

" Here's Rod," said my mother at last, strug- 
gling down on to the ground again. " Roddy, 
darling, here's your father ! " 

I saw the red face and the kindly, light-blue 
eyes looking out at me. 

" Why, Roddy, lad, you were but a child and 
we kissed good-bye when last we met ; but I 
suppose we must put you on a different rating 
now. I'm right glad from my heart to see you, 

dear lad ; and as to you, sweetheart " The 

blue arms flew out, and there were the skirt and 
the two feet fixed in the door again. 

*' Here are the folk coming, Anson," said my 
mother, blushing. " Won't you get out and 
come in with us ? " 

And then suddenly it came home to us both 
that for all his cheery face he had never moved 
more than his arms, and that his leg was resting 
on the opposite seat of the chaise. 

" Oh, Anson, Anson ! " she cried. 

" Tut, 'tis but the bone of my leg," said he, 
taking his knee between his hands and lifting it 
round. *' I got it broke in the Bay, but the 

58 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

surgeon has fished it and sphced it, though it's a 
bit crank yet. Why, bless her kindly heart, if I 
haven't turned her from pink to white. You 
can see for yourself that it's nothing." 

He sprang out as he spoke, and with one leg 
and a staff he hopped swiftly up the path, and 
under the laurel- bordered motto, and so over 
his own threshold for the first time for five years. 
When the post-boy and I had carried up the 
sea-chest and the two canvas bags, there he was 
sitting in his armchair by the window in his old 
weather-stained blue coat. My mother was 
weeping over his poor leg, and he patting her 
hair with one brown hand. His other he threw 
round my waist, and drew me to the side of his 
chair. 

" Now that we have peace, I can lie up and 
refit until King George needs me again," said 
he. " 'Twas a carronade that came adrift in the 
Bay when it was blowing a top-gallant breeze 
with a beam sea. Ere we could make it fast 
it had me jammed against the mast. Well, 
well," he added, looking round at the walls of 
the room, " here are all my old curios, the same 
as ever : the narwhal's horn from the Arctic, and 
the blowfish from the INIoluccas, and the paddles 
from Fiji, and the picture of the Ca Ira with 
Lord Hotham in chase. And here you are, 
Mary, and you also, Roddy, and good luck to 

5 59 



RODNEY STONE 

the carronade which has sent me into so snug a 
harbour without fear of saihng orders." 

My mother had his long pipe and his tobacco 
all ready for him, so that he was able now to 
light it and to sit looking from one of us to the 
other and then back again, as if he could never 
see enough of us. Young as I was, I could still 
understand that this was the moment which he 
had thought of during many a lonely watch, and 
that the expectation of it had cheered his heart 
in many a dark hour. Sometimes he would 
touch one of us with his hand, and sometimes 
the other, and so he sat, with his soul too sati- 
ated for words, whilst the shadows gathered in 
the little room and the lights of the inn windows 
glimmered through the gloom. And then, after 
my mother had lit our own lamp, she slipped 
suddenly down upon her knees, and he got one 
knee to the ground also, so that, hand-in-hand, 
they joined their thanks to Heaven for manifold 
mercies. When I look back at my parents as 
they were in those days, it is at that very mo- 
ment that I can picture them most clearly : her 
sweet face with the wet shining upon her cheeks, 
and his blue eyes upturned to the smoke-black- 
ened ceiling. I remember that he swayed his 
reeking pipe in the earnestness of his prayer, so 
that I was half tears and half smiles as I watched 

him. 

€0 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

" Roddy, lad," said he, after supper was over, 
" you're getting a man now, and I suppose you 
will go afloat like the rest of us. You're old 
enough to strap a dirk to your thigh." 

" And leave me without a child as well as 
without a husband ! " cried my mother. 

" Well, there's time enough yet," said he, 
" for they are more inclined to empty berths 
than to fill them, now that peace has come. 
But I've never tried what all this schooling has 
done for you, Rodney. You have had a great 
deal more than ever I had, but I dare say I can 
make shift to test it. Have you learned his- 
tory ? " 

" Yes, father," said I, with some confidence. 

" Then how many sail of the hne were at the 
Battle of Camperdown ? " 

He shook his head gravely when he found 
that I could not answer him. 

" Why, there are men in the fleet who never 
had any schooling at all who could tell you that 
we had seven 74's, seven 64's, and two 50-gun 
ships in the action. There's a picture on the 
wall of the chase of the Ca Ira. Which were 
the ships that laid her aboard ? " 

Again I had to confess that he had beaten me. 

" Well, your dad can teach you something in 
history yet," he cried, looking in triumph at my 
mother. " Have you learned geography ? " 

61 



RODNEY STONE 

" Yes, father," said I, though with less confi- 
dence than before. 

" Well, how far is it from Port Mahon to 
Algeciras ? " I could only shake my head. 

" If Ushant lay three leagues upon your star- 
board quarter, what would be your nearest Eng- 
hsh port ? " 

Again I had to give it up. 

"Well, I don't see that your geography is 
much better than your history," said he. "You'd 
never get your certificate at this rate. Can you 
do addition ? Well, then, let us see if you can 
tot up my prize-money." 

He shot a mischievous glance at my mother 
as he spoke, and she laid down her knitting on 
her lap and looked very earnestly at him. 

"You never asked me about that, Mary, "said he. 

" The Mediterranean is not the station for it, 
Anson. I have heard you say that it is the At- 
lantic for prize-money, and the Mediterranean for 
honour." 

" I had a share of both last cruise, which comes 

from changing a line-of-battleship for a frigate. 

Now, Rodney, there are two pounds in every 

hundred due to me when the prize-courts have 

done with them. When we were watching 

Massena, off Genoa, we got a matter of seventy 

schooners, brigs, and tartans, with wine, food, 

and powder. Lord Keith will want his finger 

62 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

in the pie, but that's for the Courts to settle. 
Put them at four pounds apiece to me, and what 
will the seventy bring ? " 

"Two hundred and eighty pounds," I an- 
swered. 

" Why, Anson, it is a fortune ! " cried my 
mother, clapping her hands. 

" Try you again, Roddy ! " said he, shaking 
his pipe at me. " There was the Xebec frigate 
out of Barcelona with twenty thousand Spanish 
dollars aboard, which make four thousand of our 
pounds. Her hull should be worth another 
thousand. What's my share of that ? " 

" A hundred pounds." 

"Why, the purser couldn't work it out 
quicker," he cried in his delight. " Here's for 
you again ! We passed the Straits and worked 
up to the Azores, where we fell in with the La 
Sahina from the JNIauritius with sugar and 
spices. Twelve hundred pounds she's worth to 
me, Mary, my darling, and never again shall you 
soil your pretty fingers or pinch upon my beg- 
garly pay." 

My dear mother had borne her long struggle 
without a sign all these years, but now that she 
was so suddenly eased of it she fell sobbing upon 
his neck. It was a long time before my father 
had a thought to spare upon my examination in 
arithmetic. 

63 



RODNEY STONE 

" It's all in your lap, Mary," said he, dashing 
his own hand across his eyes. " By George, lass, 
when this leg of mine is sound we'll bear down 
for a spell to Brighton, and if there is a smarter 
frock than yours upon the Steyne, may I never 
tread a poop again. But how is it that you are 
so quick at figures, Rodney, when you know 
nothing of history or geography ? " 

I tried to explain that addition was the same 
upon sea or land, but that history and geography 
were not. 

" Well," he concluded, " you need figures to 
take a reckoning, and you need nothing else save 
what your mother wit will teach you. There 
never was one of our breed who did not take to 
salt water like a young gull. Lord Nelson has 
promised me a vacancy for you, and he'll be as 
good as his word." 

So it was that my father came home to us, 
and a better or kinder no lad could wish for. 
Though my parents had been married so long, 
they had really seen very little of each other, 
and their affection was as warm and as fresh as 
if they were two newly- wedded lovers. I have 
learned since that sailors can be coarse and foul, 
but never did I know it from my father ; for, 
although he had seen as much rough work as 
the wildest could wish for, he was always the 
same patient, good-humoured man, with a smile 

64 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

and a jolly word for all the village. He could 
suit himself to his company, too, for on the one 
hand he could take his wine with the vicar, or 
with Sir James Ovington, the squire of the par- 
ish ; while on the other he would sit by the hour 
amongst my humble friends down in the smithy, 
with Champion Harrison, Boy Jim, and the rest 
of them, telling them such stories of Nelson and 
his men that I have seen the Champion knot his 
great hands together, while Jim's eyes have 
smouldered like the forge embers as he lis- 
tened. 

My father had been placed on half-pay, like so 
many others of the old war officers, and so, for 
nearly two years, he was able to remain with us. 
During aU this time I can only once remember 
that there was the slightest disagreement be- 
tween him and my mother. It chanced that I 
was the cause of it, and as great events sprang 
out of it, I must tell you how it came about. 
It was indeed the first of a series of events which 
affected not only my fortunes, but those of very 
much more important people. 

The spring of 1803 was an early one, and the 
middle of April saw the leaves thick upon the 
chestnut trees. One evening we were all seated 
together over a dish of tea when we heard the 
scrunch of steps outside our door, and there was 
the postman with a letter in his hand. 

65 



RODNEY STONE 

" I think it is for me," said my mother, and 
sure enough it was addressed in the most beauti- 
ful writing to Mrs. INIary Stone, of Friar's Oak, 
and there was a red seal the size of a half-crown 
upon the outside of it with a flying dragon in 
the middle. 

" Whom think you that it is from, Anson ? " 
she asked. 

" I had hoped that it was from Lord Nelson," 
answered my father. "It is time the boy had 
his commission. But if it be for you, then 
it cannot be from any one of much import- 
ance." 

" Can it not ! " she cried, pretending to be 
offended. " You will ask my pardon for that 
speech, sir, for it is from no less a person than 
Sir Charles Tregellis, my own brother." 

My mother seemed to speak with a hushed 
voice when she mentioned this wonderful brother 
of hers, and always had done as long as I can 
remember, so that I had learned also to have a 
subdued and reverent feeling when I heard his 
name. And indeed it was no wonder, for that 
name was never mentioned unless it were in 
connection with something brilliant and extra- 
ordinary. Once we heard that he was at Wind- 
sor with the King. Often he was at Brighton 
with the Prince. Sometimes it was as a sports- 
man that his reputation reached us, as when his 

66 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

Meteor beat the Duke of Queensberry's Egham, 
at Newmarket, or when he brought Jim Belcher 
up from Bristol, and sprang him upon the Lon- 
don fancy. But usually it was as the friend of 
the great, the arbiter of fashions, the king of 
bucks, and the best-dressed man in town that 
his reputation reached us. My father, however, 
did not appear to be elated at my mother's 
triumphant rejoinder. 

" Ay, and what does he want ? " asked he, in 
no very amiable voice. 

" I wrote to him, Anson, and told him that 
Rodney was growing a man now, thinking, since 
he had no wife or child of his own, he might be 
disposed to advance him." 

" We can do very well without him," growled 
my father. " He sheered off from us when the 
weather was foul, and we have no need of him 
now that the sun is shining." 

" Nay, you misjudge him, Anson," said my 
mother, warmly. " There is no one with a better 
heart than Charles ; but his own life moves so 
smoothly that he cannot understand that others 
may have trouble. During all these years I 
have known that I had but to say the word to 
receive as much as I wished from him." 

" Thank God that you never had to stoop to 
it, Mary. I want none of his help." 

" But we must think of Rodney." 

67 



RODNEY STONE 

" Rodney has enough for his sea-chest and kit. 
He needs no more." 

" But Charles has great power and influence in 
London. He could make Rodney known to all 
the great people. Surely you would not stand 
in the way of his advancement." 

" Let us hear what he says, then," said my 
father ; and this was the letter which she read to 
him — 

" 14, Jermyn Street, St. James's, 
"April 15th, 1803. 

"My dear Sister Mary, 

" In answer to your letter, I can assure 
you that you must not conceive me to be want- 
ing in those finer feelings which are the chief 
adornment of humanity. It is true that for 
some years, absorbed as I have been in affairs of 
the highest importance, I have seldom taken a 
pen in hand, for which I can assure you that I 
have been reproached by many des plus char- 
mantes of your charming sex. At the present 
moment I lie abed (having stayed late in order 
to pay a compliment to the Marchioness of 
Dover at her ball last night), and this is writ to 
my dictation by Ambrose, my clever rascal of a 
valet. I am interested to hear of my nephew 
Rodney {Mon dieu, quel nom!), and as I shall be 
on my way to visit the Prince at Brighton next 
week, I shall break my journey at Friar's Oak 

68 



THE PEACE OF AMIENS 

for the sake of seeing both you and him. Make 
my compliments to your husband. 

" I am ever, my dear sister IVIary, 
" Your brother, 

" Charles Tregellis." 

" What do you think of that ? " cried my 
mother in triumph when she had finished. 

" I think it is the letter of a fop," said my 
father, bluntly. 

*' You are too hard on him, Anson. You will 
think better of him when you know him. But 
he says that he will be here next week, and this 
is Thursday, and the best curtains unhung, and 
no lavender in the sheets ! " 

Away she bustled, half distracted, while my 
father sat moody, with his chin upon his hands, 
and I remained lost in wonder at the thought of 
this grand new relative from London, and of all 
that his coming might mean to us. 



69 



CHAPTER V 
BUCK TREGELLIS 

Now that I was in my seventeenth year, and had 

already some need for a razor, I had begun to 

weary of the narrow life of the village, and to 

long to see something of the great world beyond. 

The craving was all the stronger because I durst 

not speak openly about it, for the least hint of it 

brought the tears into my mother's eyes. But 

now there was the less reason that I should stay 

at home, since my father was at her side, and so 

my mind was all filled by this prospect of my 

uncle's visit, and of the chance that he might set 

my feet moving at last upon the road of life. 

As you may think, it was towards my father's 

profession that my thoughts and my hopes turned, 

for from my childhood I have never seen the 

heave of the sea or tasted the salt upon my lips 

without feeling the blood of five generations of 

seamen thrill within my veins. And think of 

the challenge which was ever waving in those 

days before the eyes of a coast-living lad ! I had 

but to walk up to Wolstonbury in the war time 

to see the sails of the French chasse-marees 

and privateers. Again and again I have heard 

70 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

the roar of the guns coming from far out over the 
waters. Seamen would tell us how they had left 
London and been engaged ere nightfall, or sailed 
out of Portsmouth and been yard-arm to yard- 
arm before they had lost sight of St. Helen's 
light. It was this imminence of the danger 
which warmed our hearts to our sailors, and 
made us talk, round the winter fires, of our little 
Nelson, and Cuddie CoUingwood, and Johnnie 
Jarvis, and the rest of them, not as being great 
High Admirals with titles and dignities, but as 
good friends whom we loved and honoured above 
all others. What boy was there through the 
length and breadth of Britain who did not long 
to be out with them under the red-cross flag ? 

But now that peace had come, and the fleets 
which had swept the Channel and the Mediter- 
ranean were lying dismantled in our harbours, 
there was less to draw one's fancy seawards. It 
was London now of which I thought by day and 
brooded by night : the huge city, the home of 
the wise and the great, from which came this 
constant stream of carriages, and those crowds of 
dusty people who were for ever flashing past our 
window-pane. It was this one side of Hfe which 
first presented itself to me, and so, as a boy, I 
used to picture the City as a gigantic stable with 
a huge huddle of coaches, which were for ever 
streaming off down the country roads. But, 

71 



RODNEY STONE 

then, Champion Harrison told me how the fight- 
ing-men hved there, and my father how the heads 
of the Navy Hved there, and my mother how her 
brother and his grand friends were there, until at 
last I was consumed with impatience to see this 
marvellous heart of England. This coming of 
my uncle, then, was the breaking of light through 
the darkness, though I hardly dared to hope that 
he would take me with him into those high cir- 
cles in which he lived. INIy mother, however, 
had such confidence either in his good nature or 
in her own powers of persuasion, that she already 
began to make furtive preparations for my de- 
parture. 

But if the narrowness of the village life chafed 
my easy spirit, it was a torture to the keen and 
ardent mind of Boy Jim. It was but a few days 
after the coming of my uncle's letter that we 
walked over the Downs together, and I had a 
peep of the bitterness of his heart. 

" What is there for me to do, Rodney ? " he 
cried. " I forge a shoe, and I fuller it, and I clip 
it, and 1 caulken it, and I knock five holes in it, 
and there it is finished. Then I do it again and 
again, and blow up the bellows and feed the 
forge, and rasp a hoof or two, and there is a day's 
work done, and every day the same as the other. 
Was it for this only, do you thmk, that I was 

born into the world ? " 

72 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

I looked at him, his proud, eagle face, and his 
tall, sinewy figure, and I wondered whether in 
the whole land there was a finer, handsomer man. 

" The Army or the Navy is the place for you, 
Jim," said I. 

" That is very well," he cried. " If you go 
into the Navy, as you are likely to do, you go as 
an officer, and it is you who do the ordering. If 
I go in, it is as one who was born to receive or- 
ders." 

*' An officer gets his orders from those above 
him." 

" But an officer does not have the lash hung 
over his head. I saw a poor fellow at the inn 
here — it was some years ago — who showed us 
his back in the tap-room, all cut into red diamonds 
with the boatswain's whip. ' Who ordered that? ' 
I asked. ' The captain,' said he. ' And what 
would you have had if you had struck him dead ? ' 
said I. ' The yard-arm,' he answered. ' Then 
if I had been you that's where I should have 
been,' said I, and I spoke the truth. I can't 
help it, Rod ! There's something here in my 
heart, something that is as much a part of my- 
self as this hand is, which holds me to it." 

" I know that you are as proud as Lucifer," 
said I. 

" It was born with me, Roddy, and I can't 
help it. Life would be easier if I could. I was 

73 



KODNEY STONE 

made to be my own master, and there's only one 
place where I can hope to be so." 

" Where is that, Jim ? " 

" In London. Miss Hinton has told me of it, 
until I feel as if I could find my way through it 
from end to end. She loves to talk of it as well 
as I do to listen. I have it all laid out in my 
mind, and I can see where the playhouses are, 
and how the river runs, and where the King's 
house is, and the Prince's, and the place where 
the fighting-men live. I could make my name 
known in London." 

" How ? " 

" Never mind how, Rod. I could do it, and I 
will do it, too. ' Wait ! ' says my uncle — ' wait, 
and it will all come right for you.' That is what 
he always says, and my aunt the same. Why 
should I wait ? What am I to wait for ? No, 
Roddy, I'll stay no longer eating my heart out 
in this little village, but I'll leave my apron be- 
hind me and I'll seek my fortune in London, 
and when I come back to Friar's Oak, it will be 
in such style as that gentleman yonder." 

He pointed as he spoke, and there was a high 

crimson mail phaeton coming down the London 

road, with two bay mares harnessed tandem 

fashion before it. The reins and fittings were of 

a light fawn colour, and the gentleman had a 

driving-coat to match, with a servant in dark 

74 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

livery behind. They flashed past us in a rolling 
cloud of dust, and I had just a glimpse of the 
pale, handsome face of the master, and of the 
dark, shrivelled features of the man. I should 
never have given them another thought had it 
not chanced that when the village came into view 
there was the mail phaeton again, standing at the 
door of the inn, and the grooms busy taking out 
the horses. 

" Jim," I cried, " I believe it is my uncle ! " 
and taking to my heels I ran for home at the top 
of my speed. At the door was standing the 
dark-faced servant. He carried a cushion, upon 
which lay a small and fluffy lapdog. 

" You will excuse me, young sir," said he, in 
the suavest, most soothing of voices, " but am I 
right in supposing that this is the house of Lieu- 
tenant Stone ? In that case you will, perhaps, 
do me the favour to hand to Mrs. Stone this note 
which her brother. Sir Charles TregeUis, has just 
committed to my care." 

I was quite abashed by the man's flowery way 

of talking — so unlike anything which I had ever 

heard. He had a wizened face, and sharp little 

dark eyes, which took in me and the house and 

my mother's startled face at the window all in 

the instant. INIy parents were together, the two 

of them, in the sitting-room, and my mother 

read the note to us. 

6 75 



RODNEY STONE 

" My dear Mary," it ran, " I have stopped at 
the inn, because I am somewhat ravage by the 
dust of your Sussex roads. A lavender-water 
bath may restore me to a condition in which I 
may fitly pay my compliments to a lady. Mean- 
time, I send you Fidelio as a hostage. Pray 
give him a half-pint of warmish milk with six 
drops of pure brandy in it. A better or more 
faithful creature never lived. Toujours a toi. — 
Charles." 

" Have him in ! Have him in ! " cried my 
father, heartily, running to the door. '* Come in, 
Mr. Fideho. Every man to his own taste, and 
six drops to the half-pint seems a sinful watering 
of grog — but if you like it so, you shall have it." 

A smile flickered over the dark face of the 
servant, but his features reset themselves in- 
stantly into their usual mask of respectful ob- 
servance. 

" You are labouring under a slight error, sir, if 
you will permit me to say so. INIy name is Am- 
brose, and I have the honour to be the valet of 
Sir Charles Tregellis. This is Fidelio upon the 
cushion." 

" Tut, the dog ! " cried my father, in disgust. 
" Heave him down by the fireside. Why should 
he have brandy, when many a Christian has to 
go without ? " 

" Hush, Anson ! " said my mother, taking the 

76 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

cushion. " You will tell Sir Charles that his 
wishes shall be carried out, and that we shall 
expect him at his own convenience." 

The man went off noiselessly and swiftly, but 
was back in a few minutes with a flat brown 
basket. 

" It is the refection, madam," said he. " Will 
you permit me to lay the table ? Sir Charles is 
accustomed to partake of certain dishes and to 
drink certain wines, so that we usually bring 
them with us when we visit." He opened the 
basket, and in a minute he had the table all 
shining with silver and glass, and studded with 
dainty dishes. So quick and neat and silent was 
he in all he did, that my father was as taken with 
him as I was. 

" You'd have made a right good foretopman if 
your heart is as stout as your fingers are quick," 
said he. "Did you never wish to have the 
honour of serving your country ? " 

" It is my honour, sir, to serve Sir Charles 
Tregellis, and I desire no other master," he an- 
swered. " But I wiU convey his dressing-case 
from the inn, and then all will be ready." 

He came back with a great silver-mounted 
box under his arm, and close at his heels was the 
gentleman whose coming had made such a dis- 
turbance. 

My first impression of my uncle as he entered 

77 



RODNEY STONE 

the room was that one of his eyes was swollen 
to the size of an apple. It caught the breath 
from my lips — that monstrous, glistening eye. 
But the next instant I perceived that he held a 
round glass in the front of it, which magnified it 
in this fashion. He looked at us each in turn, 
and then he bowed very gracefully to my mother 
and kissed her upon either cheek. 

" You will permit me to compliment you, my 
dear Mary," said he, in a voice which was the 
most mellow and beautiful that I have ever 
heard. *' I can assure you that the country air 
has used you wondrous well, and that I should 
be proud to see my pretty sister in the Mall. I 
am your servant, sir," he continued, holding out 
his hand to my father. "It was but last week 
that I had the honour of dining with my friend, 
Lord St. A^incent, and I took occasion to men- 
tion you to him. I may tell you that your name 
is not forgotten at the Admiralty, sir, and I hope 
that I may see you soon walking the poop of a 
74-gun ship of your own. So this is my nephew, 
is it ? " He put a hand upon each of my shoul- 
ders in a very friendly way and looked me up 
and down. 

" How old are you, nephew ? " he asked. 

" Seventeen, sir." 

" You look older. You look eighteen, at the 
least. I find him very passable, Mary — very 

78 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

passable, indeed. He has not the hel air, the 
tournure — in our uncouth EngHsh we have no 
word for it. But he is as healthy as a ^lay- 
hedge in bloom." 

So within a minute of his entering our door 
he had got himself upon terms with all of us, and 
with so easy and graceful a manner that it seemed 
as if he had known us all for years. I had a 
good look at him now as he stood upon the 
hearthrug, with my mother upon one side and my 
father on the other. He was a very large man, 
with noble shoulders, small waist, broad hips, 
well-turned legs, and the smallest of hands and 
feet. His face was pale and handsome, with a 
prominent chin, a jutting nose, and large blue 
staring eyes, in which a sort of dancing, mischiev- 
ous light was for ever playing. He wore a deep 
brown coat with a collar as high as his ears and 
tails as low as his knees. His black breeches and 
silk stockings ended in very small pointed shoes, 
so highly polished that they twinkled with every 
movement. His vest was of black velvet, open 
at the top to show an embroidered shirt-front, 
with a high, smooth, white cravat above it, which 
kept his neck for ever on the stretch. He stood 
easily, with one thumb in the arm-pit, and two 
fingers of the other hand in his vest pocket. It 
made me proud as I watched him to think that 

so magnificent a man, with such easy, masterful 

79 



RODNEY STONE 

ways, should be my own blood relation, and I 
could see from my mother's eyes as they turned 
towards him that the same thought was in her 
mind. 

All this time Ambrose had been standing like 
a darkjclothed, bronze-faced image by the door, 
with the big silver-bound box under his arm. 
He stepped forward now into the room. 

" Shall I convey it to your bedchamber, Sir 
Charles ? " he asked. 

" Ah, pardon me, sister Mary," cried my uncle, 
" I am old-fashioned enough to have principles — 
an anachronism, I know, in this lax age. One 
of them is never to allow my batfejie de toi- 
lette out of my sight when I am travelling. I 
cannot readily forget the agonies which I en- 
dured some years ago through neglecting this 
precaution. I will do Ambrose the justice to 
say that it was before he took charge of my af- 
fairs. I was compelled to wear the same ruffles 
upon two consecutive days. On the third morn- 
ing my fellow was so affected by the sight of my 
condition, that he burst into tears and laid out a 
pair which he had stolen from me." 

As he spoke his face was very grave, but 
the light in his eyes danced and gleamed. 
He handed his open snuff-box to my father, 
as Ambrose followed my mother out of the 
room. 

80 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

" You number yourself in an illustrious com- 
pany by dipping your finger and thumb into it," 
said he. 

" Indeed, sir ! " said my father, shortly. 

"You are free of my box, as being a relative 
by marriage. You are free also, nephew, and I 
pray you to take a pinch. It is the most inti- 
mate sign of my goodwill. Outside ourselves 
there are four, I think, who have had access to it — 
the Prince, of course ; Mr. Pitt ; Monsieur Otto, 
the French Ambassador ; and Lord Hawkesbury. 
I have sometimes thought that I was premature 
with Lord Hawkesbury." 

" I am vastly honoured, sir," said my father, 
looking suspiciously at his guest from under his 
shaggy eyebrows, for with that gra\ e face and 
those twinkling eyes it was hard to know how to 
take him. 

" A woman, sir, has her love to bestow," said 

my uncle. " A man has his snufF-box. Neither 

is to be lightly offered. It is a lapse of taste ; 

nay, more, it is a breach of morals. Only the 

other day, as I was seated in Watier's, my box of 

prime macouba open upon the table beside me, 

an Irish bishop thrust in his intrusive fingers. 

* Waiter,' I cried, ' my box has been soiled I 

Remove it ! ' The man meant no insult, you 

understand, but that class of people must be kept 

in their proper sphere." 

81 



RODNEY STONE 

" A bishop ! " cried my father. " You draw 
your line very high, sir." 

" Yes, sir," said my uncle ; " I wish no better 
epitaph upon my tombstone." 

My mother had in the meanwhile descended, 
and we all drew up to the table. 

" You will excuse my apparent grossness, 
Mary, in venturing to bring my own larder with 
me. Abernethy has me under his orders, and I 
must eschew your rich country dainties. A little 
white wine and a cold bird — it is as much as the 
niggardly Scotchman will allow me." 

" We should have you on blockading service 
when the levanters are blowing," said my father. 
" Salt junk and weevilly biscuits, with a rib of 
a tough Barbary ox when the tenders come in. 
You would have your spare diet there, sir." 

Straightway my uncle began to question him 
about the sea service, and for the whole meal my 
father was telling him of the Nile and of the 
Toulon blockade, and the siege of Genoa, and all 
that he had seen and done. But whenever he 
faltered for a word, my uncle always had it ready 
for him, and it was hard to say which knew most 
about the business. 

" No, I read little or nothing," said he, when 
my father marvelled where he got his knowledge. 
" The fact is that 1 can hardly pick up a print 

without seeing some allusion to myself : ' Sir C. 

82 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

T. does this,' or ' Sir C. T. says the other,' so I 
take them no longer. But if a man is in my 
position all knowledge comes to him. The Duke 
of York tells me of the Army in the morning, 
and Lord Spencer chats with me of the Navy in 
the afternoon, and Dundas whispers me what is 
going forward in the Cabinet, so that I have lit- 
tle need of the Times or the Morning C/ironicle.'' 

This set him talking of the great world of 
London, telling my father about the men who 
were his masters at the Admiralty, and my 
mother about the beauties of the town, and the 
great ladies at Almack's, but all in the same light, 
fanciful way, so that one never knew whether 
to laugh or to take him gravely. I think it 
flattered him to see the way in which we all 
three hung upon his words. Of some he thought 
highly and of some lowly, but he made no secret 
that the highest of all, and the one against 
whom all others should be measured, was Sir 
Charles Tregellis himself. 

" As to the King," said he, " of course, I am 
Vajui de famille there ; and even with you I can 
scarce speak freely, as my relations are confiden- 
tial." 

"God bless him and keep him from ill ! " 
cried my father. 

" It is pleasant to hear you say so," said my 

uncle. " One has to come into the country to 

83 



RODNEY STONE 

hear honest loyalty, for a sneer and a jibe are 
more the fashions in town. The King is grate- 
ful to me for the interest which I have ever 
shown in his son. He likes to think that the 
Prince has a man of taste in his circle." 

" And the Prince ? " asked my mother. " Is 
he well-favoured ? " 

" He is a fine figure of a man. At a distance 
he has been mistaken for me. And he has some 
taste in dress, though he gets slovenly if I am 
too long away from him. I warrant you that I 
find a crease in his coat to-morrow." 

We were all seated round the fire by this time, 
for the evening had turned chilly. The lamp 
was lighted, and so also was my father's pipe. 

" I suppose," said he, " that this is your first 
visit to Friar's Oak ? " 

My uncle's face turned suddenly very grave 
and stern. 

"It is my first visit for many years," said he. 
" I was but one-and- twenty years of age when 
last I came here. I am not likely to forget it." 

I knew that he spoke of his visit to Cliffe 
Royal at the time of the murder, and I saw by 
her face that my mother knew it also. My 
father, however, had either never heard of it, or 
had forgotten the circumstance. 

" Was it at the inn you stayed ? " he asked. 

" I stayed with the unfortunate Lord Avon. 

84 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

It was the occasion when he was accused of 
slaying his younger brother and fled from the 
country." 

We all fell silent, and my uncle leaned his 
chin upon his hand, looking thoughtfully into the 
fire. If I do but close my eyes now, I can see 
the light upon his proud, handsome face, and see 
also my dear father, concerned at having touched 
upon so terrible a memory, shooting little slant- 
ing glances at him betwixt the puffs of his pipe. 

" I dare say that it has happened with you, 
sir," said my uncle at last, " that you have lost 
some dear messmate, in battle or wTCck, and 
that you have put him out of your mind in the 
routine of your daily life, until suddenly some 
word or some scene brings him back to your 
memory, and you find your sorrow as raw as 
upon the first day of your loss." 

My father nodded. 

" So it is with me to-night. I never formed a 
close friendship with a man — I say nothing of 
women — save only the once. That was with 
Lord Avon. We were of an age, he a few 
years perhaps my senior, but our tastes, our 
judgments, and our characters were alike, save 
only that he had in him a touch of pride such as 
I have never known in any other man. Putting 
aside the little foibles of a rich young man of 
fashion, les indescretions dune jeunesse doree, I 

85 



RODNEY STONE 

could have sworn that he was as good a man as 
I have ever known." 

*' How came he, then, to such a crime ? " 
asked my father. 

My uncle shook his head. 

" Many a time have I asked myself that ques- 
tion, and it comes home to me more to-night 
than ever." 

All the jauntiness had gone out of his man- 
ner, and he had turned suddenly into a sad and 
serious man. 

" Was it certain that he did it, Charles ? " 
asked my mother. 

My uncle shrugged his shoulders. 

" I wish I could think it were not so. I 
have thought sometimes that it was this very 
pride, turning suddenly to madness, which drove 
him to it. You have heard how he returned the 
money which we had lost ? " 

" Nay, I have heard nothing of it," my father 
answered. 

"It is a very old story now, though we have 
not yet found an end to it. We had played 
for two days, the four of us : Lord Avon, his 
brother Captain Barrington, Sir Lothian Hume, 
and myself. Of the Captain I knew little, save 
that he was not of the best repute, and was deep 
in the hands of the .Jews. Sir Lothian has made 

an evil name for himself since — 'tis the same Sir 

86 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

Lothian who shot Lord Carton in the affair at 
Chalk Farm — but in those days there was noth- 
ing against him. The oldest of us was but 
twenty-four, and we gamed on, as I say, until 
the Captain had cleared the board. We were 
all hit, but our host far the hardest. 

" That night — I tell you now what it would 
be a bitter thing for me to tell in a court of law 
— I was restless and sleepless, as often happens 
when a man has kept awake over long. My 
mind would dwell upon the fall of the cards, and 
I was tossing and turning in my bed, when sud- 
denly a cry fell upon my ears, and then a second 
louder one, coming from the direction of Cap- 
tain Barrington s room. Five minutes later I 
heard steps passing down the passage, and, with- 
out striking a light, I opened my door and 
peeped out, thinking that some one was taken 
unwell. There was Lord Avon walking tow- 
ards me. In one hand he held a guttering can- 
dle and in the other a brown bag, which chinked 
as he moved. His face was all drawn and dis- 
torted — so much so that my question was 
frozen upon my lips. Before I could utter it 
he turned into his chamber and softly closed 
the door. 

" Next morning I was awakened by finding 
him at my bedside. 

" ' Charles,' said he, ' I cannot abide to think 

87 



RODNEY STONE 

that you should have lost this money in my 
house. You will find it here upon your table.' 

" It was in vain that I laughed at his squeam- 
ishness, telling him that I should most certainly 
have claimed my money had I won, so that it 
would be strange indeed if I were not permitted 
to pay it when I lost. 

" ' Neither I nor my brother will touch it,' 
said he. ' There it lies, and you may do what 
you like about it.' 

" He would listen to no argument, but dashed 
out of the room like a madman. But perhaps 
these details are familiar to you, and God knows 
they are painful to me to tell." 

My father was sitting with staring eyes, and 
his forgotten pipe reeking in his hand. 

" Pray let us hear the end of it, sir," he 
cried. 

" Well, then, I had finished my toilet in an 
hour or so — for I was less exigeant in those days 
than now — and I met Sir Lothian Hume at 
breakfast. His experience had been the same as 
my own, and he was eager to see Captain Bar- 
rington, and to ascertain why he had directed his 
brother to return the money to us. We were 
talking the matter over when suddenly I raised 
my eyes to the corner of the ceiling, and I saw — 

saw 

My uncle had turned quite pale with the 

88 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

vividness of the memory, and he passed his hand 
over his eyes. 

" It was crimson," said he, with a shudder — 
" crimson with black cracks, and from every crack 
— but I will give you dreams, sister INIary. Suf- 
fice it that we rushed up the stair which led 
direct to the Captain's room, and there we found 
him lying with the bone gleaming white through 
his throat, A hunting-knife lay in the room — 
and the knife was Lord Avon's. A lace ruffle 
was found in the dead man's grasp — and the 
ruffle was I^ord Avon's. Some papers were found 
charred in the grate — and the papers were Lord 
Avon's. Oh, my poor friend, in what moment 
of madness did you come to do such a deed ? " 

The light had gone out of my uncle's eyes and 
the extravagance from his manner. His speech 
was clear and plain, with none of those strange 
London ways which had so amazed me. Here 
was a second uncle, a man of heart and a man of 
brains, and I liked him better than the first. 

" And what said Lord Avon ? " cried my 
father. 

" He said nothing. He went about Uke one 
who walks in his sleep, with horror-stricken eyes. 
None dared arrest him until there should be due 
inquiry, but when the coroner's court brought 
wilful murder against him, the constables came 
for him in full cry. But they found him fled. 

89 



RODNEY STONE 

There was a rumour that he had been seen in 
Westminster in the next week, and then that 
he had escaped for America, but nothing more is 
known. It will be a bright day for Sir Lothian 
Hume when they can prove him dead, for he is 
next of kin, and till then he can touch neither 
title nor estate." 

The telling of this grim story had cast a chill 
upon all of us. My uncle held out his hands 
towards the blaze, and I noticed that they were 
as white as the ruffles which fringed them. 

" I know not how things are at ClifFe Royal 
now," said he, thoughtfully. " It was not a 
cheery house, even before this shadow fell upon 
it. A fitter stage was never set forth for such a 
tragedy. But seventeen years have passed, and 
perhaps even that horrible ceiling " 

" It still bears the stain," said I. 

I know not which of the three was the more 
astonished, for my mother had not heard of my 
adventures of the night. They never took their 
wondering eyes off me as I told my story, and 
my heart swelled with pride when my uncle said 
that we had carried ourselves well, and that he 
did not think that many of our age would have 
stood it as stoutly. 

" But as to this ghost, it must have been the 
creature of your own minds," said he. " Imagi- 
nation plays us strange tricks, and though I have 

90 



BUCK TREGELLIS 

as steady a nerve as a man might wish, I cannot 
answer for what I might see if I were to stand 
under that blood-stained ceiUng at midnight." 

" Uncle," said I, " I saw a figure as plainly as 
I see that fire, and I heard the steps as clearly as 
I hear the crackle of the fagots. Besides, we 
could not both be deceived." 

" There is truth in that," said he, thoughtfully. 
" You saw no features, you say ? " 

" It was too dark." 

" But only a figure ? " 

" The dark outline of one." 

" And it retreated up the stairs ? " 

"Yes." 

** And vanished into the wall ? " 

" Yes." 

" What part of the wall ? " cried a voice from 
behind us. 

My mother screamed, and down came my 
father's pipe on to the hearthrug. I had sprung 
round with a catch of my breath, and there was 
the valet, Ambrose, his body in the shadow of 
the doorway, his dark face protruded into the 
light, and two burning eyes fixed upon mine. 

" What the deuce is the meaning of this, sir?" 
cried my uncle. 

It was strange to see the gleam and passion 
fade out of the man's face, and the demure mask 
of the valet replace it. His eyes still smoul- 
7 91 



RODNEY STONE 

dered, but his features regained their prim com- 
posure in an instant. 

" I beg your pardon, Sir Charles," said he. " I 
had come in to ask you if you had any orders for 
me, and I did not Uke to interrupt the young 
gentleman's story. I am afraid that I have been 
somewhat carried away by it." 

" 1 never knew you forget yourself before," 
said my uncle. 

" You will, I am sure, forgive me. Sir Charles, 
if you will call to mind the relation in which I 
stood to Lord Avon." He spoke with some dig- 
nity of manner, and with a bow he left the room. 

" We must make some little allowance," said 
my uncle, with a sudden return to his jaunty 
manner. "When a man can brew a dish of 
chocolate, or tie a cravat, as Ambrose does, he 
may claim consideration. The fact is that the 
poor fellow was valet to Lord Avon, that he was 
at ClifFe Royal upon the fatal night of which I 
have spoken, and that he is most devoted to his 
old master. But my talk has been somewhat 
triste, sister Mary, and now we shall return, if 
you please, to the dresses of the Countess Lieven, 
and the gossip of St. James." 



92 



CHAPTER VI 
ON THE THRESHOLD 

My father sent me to bed early that night, 
though 1 was very eager to stay up, for every 
word which this man said held my attention. 
His face, his manner, the large waves and sweeps 
of his white hands, his easy air of superiority, his 
fantastic fashion of talk, all filled me with inter- 
est and wonder. But, as I afterwards learned, 
their conversation was to be about myself and 
my own prospects, so I was despatched to my 
room, whence far into the night 1 could hear the 
deep growl of my father and the rich tones of 
my uncle, with an occasional gentle murmur from 
my mother, as they talked in the room beneath. 
I had dropped asleep at last, when I was 
awakened suddenly by something wet being 
pressed against my face, and by two warm arms 
which were cast round me. INIy mother's cheek 
was against my own, and I could hear the click 
of her sobs, and feel her quiver and shake in the 
darkness. A faint light stole through the lat- 
ticed window, and I could dimly see that she 
was in white, with her black hair loose upon her 
shoulders. 

93 



RODNEY STONE 

"You won't forget us, Roddy? You won't 
forget us ? " 

" Why, mother, what is it ? " 

" Your uncle, Roddy — he is going to take you 
away from us." 

" When, mother ? " 

" To-morrow." 

God forgive me, how my heart bounded for 
joy, when hers, which was within touch of it, 
was breaking with sorrow ! 

" Oh, mother ! " I cried. " To London ? " 

" First to Brighton, that he may present you 
to the Prince. Next day to London, where you 
will meet the great people, Roddy, and learn to 
look down upon — to look down upon your poor, 
simple, old-fashioned father and mother." 

I put my arms about her to console her, but 
she wept so that, for all my seventeen years and 
pride of manhood, it set me weeping also, and 
with such a hiccoughing noise, since I had not 
a woman's knack of quiet tears, that it finally 
turned her own grief to laughter. 

" Charles would be flattered if he could see the 
gracious way in which we receive his kindness," 
said she. " Be still, Roddy dear, or you will cer- 
tainly wake him." 

" I'll not go if it is to grieve you," I cried. 

" Nay, dear, you must go, for it may be the 
one great chance of your life. And think how 

94 



ON THE THRESHOLD 

proud it will make us all when we hear of you 
in the company of Charles's grand friends. But 
you will promise me not to gamble, Roddy? 
You heard to-night of the dreadful things which 
come from it." 

" I promise you, mother." 

" And you will be careful of wine, Roddy ? 
You are young and unused to it." 

"Yes, mother." 

" And play-actresses also, Roddy. And you 
will not cast your underclothing until .Tune is in. 
Young Master Overton came by his death 
through it. Think well of your dress, Roddy, 
so as to do your uncle credit, for it is the thing 
for which he is himself most famed. You have 
but to do what he will direct. But if there is a 
time when you are not meeting grand people, 
you can wear out your country things, for your 
brown coat is as good as new, and the blue one, 
if it were ironed and relined, would take you 
through the summer. I have put out your Sun- 
day clothes with the nankeen vest, since you are 
to see the Prince to-morrow, and you will wear 
your brown silk stockings and buckle shoes. Be 
guarded in crossing the London streets, for I am 
told that the hackney coaches are past all imag- 
ining. Fold your clothes when you go to bed, 
Roddy, and do not forget your evening prayers, 
for, oh, my dear boy, the days of temptation are 

95 



RODNEY STONE 

at hand, when I will no longer be with you to 
help you." 

So with advice and guidance both for this 
world and the next did my mother, with her soft, 
warm arms around me, prepare me for the great 
step which lay before me. 

My uncle did not appear at breakfast in the 
morning, but Ambrose brewed him a dish of 
chocolate and took it to his room. When at 
last, about midday, he did descend, he was so 
fine with his curled hair, his shining teeth, his 
quizzing glass, his snow-white ruffles, and his 
laughing eyes, that I could not take my gaze 
from him. 

" Well, nephew," he cried, " what do you 
think of the prospect of coming to town with 
me f 

" I thank you, sir, for the kind interest which 
you take in me," said I. 

" But you must be a credit to me. My 
nephew must be of the best if he is to be in 
keeping with the rest of me." 

" You'll find him a chip of good wood, sir," 
said my father. 

*' We must make him a polished chip before 
we have done with him. Your aim, my dear 
nephew, must always be to be in ho7i ton. It is 
not a case of wealth, you understand. Mere 
riches cannot do it. (t olden Price has forty 

96 



ON THE THRESHOLD 

thousand a year, but his clothes are disastrous. 
I assure you that I saw him come down St. 
James's Street the other day, and I was so 
shocked at his appearance that I had to step 
into Vernet's for a ghiss of orange brandy. No, 
it is a question of natural taste, and of following 
the advice and example of those who are more 
experienced than yourself" 

" I fear, Charles, that Rodney's wardrobe is 
country-made," said my mother. 

" We shall soon set that right when we get to 
town. We shall see what Stultz or AVeston can 
do for him," my uncle answered. " We must 
keep him quiet until he has some clothes to 
wear." 

This slight upon my best Sunday suit brought 
a flush to my mother's cheeks, which my uncle 
instantly observed, for he was quick in noticing 
trifles. 

" The clothes are very well for Friar's Oak, 
sister Mary," said he. " And yet you can un- 
derstand that they might seem rococo in the 
MaU. If you leave him in my hands I shall see 
to the matter." 

" On how much, sir," asked my father, " can a 
young man dress in town ? " 

" With prudence and reasonable care, a young 
man of fashion can dress upon eight hundred a 
year," my uncle answered. 

97 



RODNEY STONE 

I saw my poor father's face grow longer. 

" I fear, sir, that Roddy must keep his coun- 
try clothes," said he. "Even with my prize- 
money " 

" Tut, sir ! " cried my uncle. " I already owe 
Weston something over a thousand, so how can 
a few odd hundreds affect it? If my nephew 
comes with me, my nephew is my care. The 
point is settled, and I must refuse to argue 
upon it." He waved his white hands as if to 
brush aside all opposition. 

My parents tried to thank him, but he cut 
them short. 

" By the way, now that I am in Friar's Oak, 
there is another small piece of business which I 
have to perform," said he. " I believe that there 
is a fighting-man named Harrison here, who at 
one time might have held the championship. 
In those days poor Avon and I were his princi- 
pal backers. I should like to have a word with 
him." 

You may think how proud I was to walk 
down the village street with my magnificent 
relative, and to note out of the corner of my eye 
how the folk came to the doors and windows to 
see us pass. Champion Harrison was standing 
outside the smithy, and he pulled his cap off 
when he saw my uncle. 

"God bless me, sir! Who'd ha' thought of 

98 



ON THE THRESHOLD 

seein' you at Friar's Oak? Why, Sir Charles, 
it brings old memories back to look at your face 
again." 

" Glad to see you looking so fit, Harrison," 
said my uncle, running his eyes over him. 
" Why, with a week's training you would be as 
good a man as ever. I don't suppose you scale 
more than thirteen and a half? " 

" Thirteen ten. Sir Charles. I'm in my forti- 
eth year, but I am sound in wind and limb, and 
if my old woman would have let me off my 
promise, I'd ha' had a try with some of these 
young ones before now. I hear that they've got 
some amazin' good stuff up from Bristol of late." 

" Yes, the Bristol yellowman has been the 
winning colour of late. How d'ye do, Mrs. 
Harrison ? I don't suppose you remember me ? " 

She had come out from the house, and I no- 
ticed that her worn face — on which some past 
terror seemed to have left its shadow — hardened 
into stern lines as she looked at my uncle. 

" I remember you too well. Sir Charles Tre- 
gellis," said she. " I trust that you have not 
come here to-day to try to draw my husband 
back into the ways that he has forsaken." 

" That's the way with her. Sir Charles," said 
Harrison, resting his great hand upon the wom- 
an's shoulder. " She's got my promise, and 
she holds me to it ! There was never a better 

99 



RODNEY STONE 

or more hard-working wife, but she ain't what 
you'd call a patron of sport, and that's a fact." 

" Sport ! " cried the woman, bitterly. " A fine 
sport for you, Sir Charles, with your pleasant 
twenty-mile drive into the country and your 
luncheon- basket and your wines, and so merrily 
back to London in the cool of the evening, with 
a well-fought battle to talk over. Think of the 
sport that it was to me to sit through the long 
hours, listening for the wheels of the chaise 
which would bring my man back to me. Some- 
times he could walk in, and sometimes he was 
led in, and sometimes he was carried in, and it 
was only by his clothes that I could know him " 

" Come, wifie," said Harrison, patting her on 
the shoulder. "I've been cut up in my time, 
but never as bad as that." 

" And then to live for weeks afterwards with 
the fear that every knock at the door may be to 
tell us that the other is dead, and that my man 
may have to stand in the dock and take his trial 
for murder." 

"No, she hasn't got a sportin' drop in her 
veins," said Harrison. " She'd never make a 
patron, never ! It's Black Baruk's business that 
did it, when we thought he'd napped it once too 
often. Well, she has my promise, and I'll never 
sling my hat over the ropes unless she gives me 
leave." 

100 



ON THE THRESHOLD 

" You'll keep your hat on your head like an 
honest, God-fearing man, John," said his wife, 
turning back into the house. 

"I wouldn't for the world say anything to 
make you change your resolutions," said my 
uncle. " At the same time, if you had wished to 
take a turn at the old sport, I had a good thing 
to put in your way." 

" Well, it's no use, sir," said Harrison, " but I'd 
be glad to hear about it all the same." 

" They have a very good bit of stuff at thirteen 
stone down Gloucester way. Wilson is his name, 
and they call him Crab on account of his style." 

Harrison shook his head. "Never heard of 
him, sir." 

" Very likely not, for he has never shown in 
the P.R. But they think great things of him 
in the West, and he can hold his own with either 
of the Belchers with the mufHers." 

" Sparrin' ain't fightin','' said the smith. 

" I am told that he had the best of it in a by- 
battle with Noah James, of Cheshire." 

" There's no gamer man on the hst, sir, than 
Noah James, the guardsman," said Harrison. 
" I saw him myself fight fifty rounds after his 
jaw had been cracked in three places. If AVilson 
could beat him, Wilson will go far." 

" So they think in the West, and they mean 
to spring him on the London talent. Sir Lothian 

101 



RODNEY STONE 

Hume is his patron, and to make a long story 
short, he lays me odds that I won't find a young 
one of his weight to meet him. I told him that 
I had not heard of any good young ones, but 
that I had an old one who had not put his foot 
into a ring for many years, who would make his 
man wish he had never come to London. 

" ' Young or old, under twenty or over thirty- 
five, you may bring whom you will at the weight, 
and I shall lay two to one on Wilson,' said he. 
I took him in thousands, and here I am." 

" It won't do. Sir Charles," said the smith, 
shaking his head. " There's nothing would 
please me better, but you heard for yourself" 

" Well, if you won't fight, Harrison, I must 
try to get some promising colt. I'd be glad of 
your advice in the matter. By the way, I take 
the chair at a supper of the Fancy at the Waggon 
and Horses in St. Martin's Lane next Friday. I 
should be very glad if you will make one of my 
guests. Halloa, who's this ? " Up flew his glass 
to his eye. 

Boy Jim had come out from the forge with his 
hammer in his hand. He had, I remember, a 
grey flannel shirt, which was open at the neck 
and turned up at the sleeves. My uncle ran his 
eyes over the fine lines of his magnificent figure 
with the glance of a connoisseur. 

" That's my nephew, Sir Charles." 

102 



ON THE THRESHOLD 

" Is he living with you ? " 

" His parents are dead." 

" Has he ever been in London ? " 

" No, Sir Charles. He's been with me here 
since he was as high as that hammer." 

My uncle turned to Boy Jim. 

" I hear that you have never been in London," 
said he. " Your uncle is coming up to a supper 
which I am giving to the Fancy next Friday. 
Would you care to make one of us ? " 

Boy Jim's dark eyes sparkled with pleasure. 

" I should be glad to come, sir." 

" No, no, Jim," cried the smith, abruptly. 
" I'm sorry to gainsay you, lad, but there are 
reasons why I had rather you stayed down here 
with your aunt." 

" Tut, Harrison, let the lad come ! " cried my 
uncle. 

*' No, no, Sir Charles. It's dangerous com- 
pany for a lad of his mettle. There's plenty for 
him to do when I'm away." 

Poor Jim turned away with a clouded brow 

and strode into the smithy again. For my part, 

I slipped after him to try to console him, and to 

tell him all the wonderful changes which had 

come so suddenly into my life. But I had not 

got half through my story, and Jim, Uke the 

good fellow that he was, had just begun to forget 

his own troubles in his delight at my good fort- 
ies 



RODNEY STONE 

une, when my uncle called to me from without. 
The mail phaeton with its tandem mares was 
waiting for us outside the cottage, and Ambrose 
had placed the refection -basket, the lap-dog, and 
the precious toilet-box inside of it. He had 
himself climbed up behind, and I, after a hearty 
handshake from my father, and a last sobbing 
embrace from my mother, took my place beside 
my uncle in the front. 

" Let go her head ! " cried he to the ostler, and 
with a snap, a crack, and a jingle, away we went 
upon our journey. 

Across all the years how clearly I can see that 
spring day, with the green English fields, the 
windy English sky, and the yellow, beetle-browed 
cottage in which I had grown from a child to a 
man. I see, too, the figures at the garden gate : 
my mother, with her face turned away and her 
handkerchief waving ; my father, with his blue 
coat and his white shorts, leaning upon his stick 
with his hand shading his eyes as he peered after 
us. All the village was out to see young Roddy 
Stone go off with his grand relative from London 
to call upon the Prince in his own palace. The 
Harrisons were waving to me from the smithy, 
and John Cummings from the steps of the inn, 
and I saw Joshua Allen, my old schoolmaster, 
pointing me out to the people, as if he were 
showing what came from his teaching. To make 

104 



ON THE THRESHOLD 

it complete, who should drive past just as we 
cleared the village but Miss Hinton, the play- 
actress, the pony and phaeton the same as when 
first I saw her, but she herself another woman ; 
and I thought to myself that if Boy Jim had 
done nothing but that one thing, he need not 
think that his youth had been wasted in the 
country. She was driving to see him, I have no 
doubt, for they were closer than ever, and she 
never looked up nor saw the hand that I waved 
to her. So as we took the curve of the road the 
little village vanished, and there in the dip of the 
Downs, past the spires of Patcham and of Pres- 
ton, lay the broad blue sea and the grey houses 
of Brighton, with the strange Eastern domes and 
minarets of the Prince's Pavilion shooting out 
from the centre of it. 

To every traveller it was a sight of beauty, but 
to me it was the world — the great wide free 
world — and my heart thrilled and fluttered as the 
young bird's may when it first hears the whirr of 
its own flight, and skims along with the blue 
heaven above it and the green fields beneath. 
The day may come when it may look back re- 
gretfully to the snug nest in the thornbush, but 
what does it reck of that when spring is in the 
air and youth in its blood, and the old hawk of 
trouble has not yet darkened the sunshine with 
the ill-boding shadow of its wings ? 

105 



CHAPTER VII 
THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

My uncle drove for some time in silence, but I 
was conscious that his eye was always coming 
round to me, and I had an uneasy conviction 
that he was already beginning to ask himself 
whether he could make anything of me, or 
whether he had been betrayed into an indiscre- 
tion when he had allowed his sister to persuade 
him to show her son something of the grand 
world in which he lived. 

" You sing, don't you, nephew ? " he asked, 
suddenly. 

" Yes, sir, a little." 

" A baritone, I should fancy ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

*' And your mother tells me that you play the 
fiddle. These things will be of service to you 
with the Prince. Music runs in his family. Your 
education has been what you could get at a vil- 
lage school. Well, you are not examined in 
Greek roots in polite society, which is lucky for 
some of us. It is as well just to have a tag or 
two of Horace or Virgil : ' sub tegmine fagi,' or 
' habet foenum in cornu,' which gives a flavour to 

106 



THE HOrE OF ENGLAND 

one's conversation like the touch of garlic in a 
salad. It is not bon ton to be learned, but it is 
a graceful thing to indicate that you have forgot- 
ten a good deal. Can you write verse ? " 

" I fear not, sir." 

" A small book of rhymes may be had for half 
a crown. Vers de Societe are a great assistance 
to a young man. If you have the ladies on your 
side, it does not matter whom you have against 
you. You must learn to open a door, to enter a 
room, to present a snuff-box, raising the lid with 
the forefinger of the hand in which you hold it. 
You must acquire the bow for a man, with its 
necessary touch of dignity, and that for a lady, 
which cannot be too humble, and should still 
contain the least suspicion of abandon. You 
must cultivate a manner with women which shall 
be deprecating and yet audacious. Have you 
any eccentricity ? " 

It made me laugh, the easy way in which he 
asked the question, as if it were a most natural 
thing to possess. 

" You have a pleasant, catching laugh, at all 
events," said he. " But an eccentricity is very 
bon ton at present, and if you feel any leaning 
towards one, I should certainly advise you to let 
it run its course. Petersham would have re- 
mained a mere peer all his hfe had it not come 
out that he had a snuff-box for every day in the 

8 107 



RODNEY STONE 

year, and that he had caught cold through a mis- 
take of his valet, who sent him out on a bitter 
winter day with a thin Sevres china box instead 
of a thick tortoise-shell. That brought him out 
of the ruck, you see, and people remember him. 
Even some small characteristic, such as having 
an apricot tart on your sideboard all the year 
round, or putting your candle out at night by 
stuffing it under your pillow, serves to separate 
you from your neighbour. In my own case, it 
is my precise judgment upon matter of dress and 
decorum which has placed me where I am. I do 
not profess to follow a law. I set one. For ex- 
ample, I am taking you to-day to see the Prince 
in a nankeen vest. What do you think will be 
the consequence of that ? " 

My fears told me that it might be my own 
very great discomfiture, but I did not say so. 

" Why, the night coach will carry the news to 
London. It will be in Brookes's and White's to- 
morrow morning. Within a week St. James's 
Street and the Mall will be full of nankeen waist- 
coats. A most painful incident happened to me 
once. My cravat came undone in the street, 
and I actually walked from Carlton House to 
Watier's in Bruton Street with the two ends 
hanging loose. Do you suppose it shook my po- 
sition ? The same evening there were dozens of 

young bloods walking the streets of London with 

108 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

their cravats loose. If I had not rearranged 
mine there would not be one tied in the whole 
kingdom now, and a great art would have been 
prematurely lost. You have not yet began to 
practice it ? " 

I confessed that I had not. 

-' You should begin now in your youth. I 
will myself teach you the coiqj darchet. By us- 
ing a few hours in each day, which would other- 
wise be wasted, you may hope to have excellent 
cravats in middle life. The whole knack lies in 
pointing your chin to the sky, and then arrang- 
ing your folds by the gradual descent of your 
lower jaw." 

When my uncle spoke like this there was al- 
ways that dancing, mischievous hght in his dark 
blue eyes, which showed me that this humour of 
his was a conscious eccentricity, depending, as I 
believe, upon a natural fastidiousness of taste, 
but wilfully driven to grotesque lengths for the 
very reason which made him recommend me also 
to develop some peculiarity of my omu. When 
I thought of the way in which he had spoken of 
his unhappy friend, Lord Avon, upon the even- 
ing before, and of the emotion which he showed 
as he told the horrible story, I was glad to think 
that there was the heart of a man there, however 
much it might please him to conceal it. 

And, as it happened, I was very soon to have 

109 



RODNEY STONE 

another peep at it, for a most unexpected event 
befell us as we drew up in front of the Crown 
Hotel. A swarm of ostlers and gi-ooms had 
rushed out to us, and my uncle, throwing down 
the reins, gathered Fidelio on his cushion from 
under the seat. 

" Ambrose," he cried, " you may take Fidelio." 

But there came no answer. The seat behind 
was unoccupied. Ambrose was gone. 

We could hardly beheve our eyes when we 
alighted and found that it was really so. He had 
most certainly taken his seat there at Friar's Oak, 
and from there on we had come without a break 
as fast as the mares could travel. Whither, then, 
could he have vanished to ? 

" He's fallen off in a fit ! " cried my uncle. 
"I'd drive back, but the Prince is expecting us. 
Where's the landlord? Here, Coppinger, send 
your best man back to Friar's Oak as fast as his 
horse can go, to find news of my valet, Ambrose. 
See that no pains be spared. Now, nephew, we 
shall lunch, and then go up to the Pavilion." 

My uncle was much disturbed by the strange 

loss of his valet, the more so as it was his custom 

to go through a whole series of washings and 

changings after even the shortest journey. For 

my own part, mindful of my mother's advice, I 

carefully brushed the dust from my clothes and 

made myself as neat as possible. My heart was 

110 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

down in the soles of my little silver-buckled 
shoes now that I had the immediate prospect of 
meeting so great and terrible a person as the 
Prince of Wales. I had seen his flaring yellow 
barouche flying through Friar's Oak many a 
time, and had halloaed and waved my hat with 
the others as it passed, but never in my wildest 
dreams had it entered my head that I should 
ever be called upon to look him in the face and 
answer his questions. My mother had taught 
me to regard him with reverence, as one of those 
whom God had placed to rule over us ; but my 
uncle smiled when I told him of her teaching. 

" You are old enough to see things as they are, 
nephew," said he, " and your knowledge of them 
is the badge that you are in that inner circle 
where I mean to place you. There is no one 
who knows the Prince better than I do, and 
there is no one who trusts him less. A stranger 
contradiction of qualities was never gathered un- 
der one hat. He is a man who is always in a 
hurry, and yet has never anything to do. He 
fusses about things with which he has no con- 
cern, and he neglects every obvious duty. He is 
generous to those who have no claim upon him, 
but he has ruined his tradesmen by refusing to 
pay his j ust debts. He is affectionate to casual 
acquaintances, but he dishkes his father, loathes 

his mother, and is not on speaking terms with 

111 



RODNEY STONE 

his wife. He claims to be the first gentleman of 
England, but the gentlemen of England have re- 
sponded by blackballing his friends at their clubs, 
and by warning him off from Newmarket under 
suspicion of having tampered with a horse. He 
spends his days in uttering noble sentiments, and 
contradicting them by ignoble actions. He tells 
stories of his own doings which are so grotesque 
that they can only be explained by the madness 
which runs in his blood. And yet, with all this, 
he can be courteous, dignified, and kindly upon 
occasion, and I have seen an impulsive good- 
heartedness in the man which has made me over- 
look faults which come mainly from his being 
placed in a position which no one upon this earth 
was ever less fitted to fill. But this is between 
ourselves, nephew ; and now you will come with 
me and you will form an opinion for yourself." 

It was but a short walk, and yet it took us 
some time, for my uncle stalked along with great 
dignity, his lace-bordered handkerchief in one 
hand, and his cane with the clouded amber head 
dangling from the other. Every one that we 
met seemed to know him, and their hats flew 
from their heads as we passed. He took little 
notice of these greetings, save to give a nod to 
one, or to shghtly raise his forefinger to another. 
It chanced, however, that as we turned into the 
PaviHon Grounds, we met a magnificent team of 

112 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

four coal-black horses, driven by a rough-looking, 
middle-aged fellow in an old weather-stained 
cape. There was nothing that I could see to 
distinguish him from any professional driver, 
save that he was chatting very freely with a 
dainty little woman who was perched on the box 
beside him. 
, "Halloa, Charlie! Good drive down?" he cried. 

My uncle bowed and smiled to the lady. 

" Broke it at Friar's Oak," said he. " I've my 
light mail phaeton and two new mares — half thor- 
ough-bred, half Cleveland bay." 

" What d'you think of my team of blacks ? " 
asked the other. 

" Yes, Sir Charles, what d'you think of them ? 
Ain't they damnation smart ? " cried the little 
woman. 

" Plenty of power. Good horses for the Sus- 
sex clay. Too thick about the fetlocks for me. 
I like to travel." 

" Travel ! " cried the woman, with extraordi- 
nary vehemence. " Why, what the " and she 

broke into such language as I had never heard 
from a man's lips before. " We'd start with our 
swingle-bars touching, and we'd have your din- 
ner ordered, cooked, laid, and eaten before you 
were there to claim it." 

*' By George, yes, Letty is right ! " cried the 
man. " D'you start to-morrow ? " 

113 



RODNEY STONE 

" Yes, Jack." 

" Well, I'll make you an offer. Look ye 
here, Charlie ! I'll spring my cattle from the 
Castle Square at quarter before nine. You can 
follow as the clock strikes. I've double the 
horses and double the weight. If you so much 
as see me before we cross Westminster Bridge, 
I'll pay you a cool hundred. If not, it's my 
money — play or pay. Is it a match ? " 

" Very good," said my uncle, and, raising his 
hat, he led the way into the grounds. As I fol- 
lowed, I saw the woman take the reins, while 
the man looked after us, and squirted a jet of 
tobacco-juice from between his teeth in coach- 
man fashion. 

" That's Sir John Lade," said my uncle, " one 
of the richest men and best whips in England. 
There isn't a professional on the road that can 
handle either his tongue or his ribbons better ; 
but his wife. Lady Letty, is his match with the 
one or the other." 

" It was dreadful to hear her," said I. 

" Oh, it's her eccentricity. We all have them ; 
and she amuses the Prince. Now, nephew, keep 
close at my elbow, and have your eyes open and 
your mouth shut." 

Two lines of magnificent red and gold foot- 
men who guarded the door bowed deeply as my 
uncle and I passed between them, he with his 

114 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

head in the air and a manner as if he entered 
into his own, whilst I tried to look assured, 
though my heart was beating thin and fast. 
Within there was a high and large hall, orna- 
mented with Eastern decorations, which har- 
monized with the domes and minarets of the ex- 
terior. A number of people were moving quietly 
about; forming into groups and whispering to 
each other. One of these, a short, burly, red- 
faced man, full of fuss and self-importance, came 
hurrying up to my uncle. 

" I have de goot news, Sir Charles," said he, 
sinking his voice as one who speaks of weighty 
measures. " Es ist vollendct — dat is, I have it at 
last thoroughly done." 

" Well, serve it hot," said my uncle, coldly, 
" and see that the sauces are a little better than 
when last I dined at Carlton House." 

" Ah, mine Gott, you tink I talk of de cuisine. 
It is de affair of de Prince dat I speak of. Dat 
is one little vol-au-veiit dat is worth one hundred 
tousand pound. Ten per cent, and double to be 
repaid when de Royal pappa die. Alles isf fir- 
tig. Goldshmidt of de Hague have took it up, 
and de Dutch public has subscribe de money." 

" God help the Dutch public ! " muttered my 

uncle, as the fat little man bustled off with his 

news to some new-comer. " That's the Prince's 

famous cook, nephew. He has not his equal in 

115 



RODNEY STONE 

England for ?i filet saute auoc champignons. He 
manages his master's money affairs." 

" The cook ! " I exclaimed, in bewilderment. 

" You look surprised, nephew." 

" I should have thought that some respecta- 
ble banking firm " 

My uncle inclined his lips to my ear. 

" No respectable house would touch them," 
he whispered. " Ah, Mellish, is the Prince 
within? " 

" In the private saloon. Sir Charles," said the 
gentleman addressed. 

" Any one with him ? " 

" Sheridan and Francis. He said he expected 
you." 

" Then we shall go through." 

I followed him through the strangest succes- 
sion of rooms, full of curious barbaric splendour 
which impressed me as being very rich and won- 
derful, though perhaps I should think differently 
now. Gold and scarlet in arabesque designs 
gleamed upon the walls, with gilt dragons and 
monsters writhing along cornices and out of 
corners. Look where I would, on panel or ceil- 
ing, a score of mirrors flashed back the picture 
of the tall, proud, white-faced man, and the 
youth who walked so demurely at his elbow. 
Finally, a footman opened a door, and we found 
ourselves in the Prince's own private apartment. 

116 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

Two gentlemen were lounging in a very easy 
fashion upon luxurious fauteuils at the further 
end of the room, and a third stood between 
them, his thick, well-formed legs somewhat 
apart and his hands clasped behind him. The 
sun was shining in upon them through a side- 
window, and I can see the three faces now— one 
in the dusk, one in the light, and one cut across 
by the shadow. Of those at the sides, I recall 
the reddish nose and dark, flashing eyes of the 
one, and the hard, austere face of the other, with 
the high coat-collars and many-wreathed cravats. 
These I took in at a glance, but it was upon the 
man in the centre that my gaze was fixed, for 
this I knew must be the Prince of Wales. 

George was then in his forty-first year, and 
with the help of his tailor and his hairdresser, he 
might have passed as somewhat less. The siglit 
of him put me at my ease, for he was a merry- 
looking man, handsome too in a portly, full- 
blooded way, with laughing eyes and pouting, 
sensitive lips. His nose was turned upwards, 
which increased the good-humoured effect of his 
countenance at the expense of its dignity. His 
cheeks were pale and sodden, like those of a man 
who lived too well and took too little exer- 
cise. He was dressed in a single-breasted black 
coat buttoned up, a pair of leather pantaloons 

stretched tightly across his broad thighs, pol- 

117 



RODNEY STONE 

ished Hessian boots, and a huge white neck- 
cloth. 

" Halloa, Tregellis ! " he cried, in the cheeriest 
fashion, as my uncle crossed the threshold, and 
then suddenly the smile faded from his face, and 
his eyes gleamed with resentment. " What the 
deuce is this ? " he shouted, angrily. 

A thrill of fear passed through me as I 
thought that it was my appearance which had 
produced this outburst. But his eyes were gaz- 
ing past us, and glancing round we saw that a 
man in a brown coat and scratch wig had fol- 
lowed so closely at our heels, that the footmen 
had let him pass under the impression that he 
was of our party. His face was very red, and 
the folded blue paper which he carried in his 
hand shook and crackled in his excitement. 

" Why, it's Vuillamy, the furniture man," 
cried the Prince. " What, am I to be dunned 
in my own private room? Where's Melhsh? 
Where's Townshend ? What the deuce is Tom 
Tring doing ? " 

" I wouldn't have intruded, your Royal High- 
ness, but I must have the money^or even a 
thousand on account would do." 

" Must have it, must you, Vuillamy ? That's 
a fine word to use. 1 pay my debts in my own 
time, and I'm not to be bullied. Turn him out, 
footman ! Take him away ! " 

118 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

" If I don't get it by INIonday, I shall be in 
your papa's Bench," wailed the little man, and 
as the footman led him out we could hear him, 
amidst shouts of laughter, still protesting that he 
would wind up in " papa's Bench." 

" That's the very place for a furniture man," 
said the man with the red nose. 

" It should be the longest bench in the world. 
Sherry," answered the Prince, " for a good many 
of his subjects will want seats on it. Very glad 
to see you back, Tregellis, but you must really 
be more careful what you bring in upon your 
skirts. It was only yesterday that we had an 
infernal Dutchman here howling about some 
arrears of interest and the deuce knows what. 
' My good fellow,' said I, 'as long as the Com- 
mons starve me, I have to starve you,' and so 
the matter ended." 

" I think, sir, that the Commons would 
respond now if the matter were fairly put before 
them by Charhe Fox or myself," said Sheridan. 

The Prince burst out against the Commons 
with an energy of hatred that one would scarce 
expect from that chubby, good-humoured face. 

*' Why, curse them ! " he cried. " After all 
their preaching and throwing my father's model 
life, as they called it, in my teeth, they had to 
pay his debts to the tune of nearly a million, 
whilst I can't get a hundred thousand out of 

119 



RODNEY STONE 

them. And look at all they've done for my 
brothers ! York is Commander-in-Chief. Clar- 
ence is Admiral. What am I ? Colonel of a 
damned dragoon regiment under the orders of 
my own younger brother. It's my mother that's 
at the bottom of it all. She always tried to 
hold me back. But what's this you've brought, 
Tregellis, eh ? " 

My uncle put his hand on my sleeve and led 
me forward. 

" This is my sister's son, sir ; Rodney Stone 
by name," said he. " He is coming with me to 
London, and I thought it right to begin by pre- 
senting him to your Royal Highness." 

*' Quite right ! Quite right ! " said the Prince, 
with a good-natured smile, patting me in a 
friendly way upon the shoulder. " Is your 
mother living ? " 

" Yes, sir," said I. 

"If you are a good son to her you will never 
go wrong. And, mark my words, INIr. Rodney 
Stone, you should honour the King, love your 
country, and uphold the glorious British Consti- 
tution." 

When I thought of the energy with which he 
had just been cursing the House of Commons, I 
could scarce keep from smiling, and I saw Sheri- 
dan put his hand up to his lips. 

" You have only to do this, to show a regard 

120 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

for your word, and to keep out of debt in order 
to insure a happy and respected life. What is 
your father, JNlr. Stone ? Royal Navy I Well, 
it is a glorious service. I have had a touch of it 
myself Did I ever tell you how we laid aboard 
the French sloop of war Minerve — hey, Tre- 
geUis ? " 

" No, sir," said my uncle. Sheridan and Fran- 
cis exchanged glances behind the Prince's back. 

"She was flying her tricolour out there within 
sight of my pavilion windows. Never saw such 
monstrous impudence in my life! It would take 
a man of less mettle than me to stand it. Out 
I went in my little cock-boat — you know my 
sixty-ton yawl, Charlie ? — with two four-pound- 
ers on each side, and a six-pounder in the bows." 

" Well, sir ! Well, sir ! And what then, 
sir ? " cried Francis, who appeared to be an 
irascible, rough-tongued man. 

" You will permit me to tell the story in my 
own way, Sir Phihp," said the Prince, with 
dignity. " I was about to say that our metal 
was so light that I give you my word, gentle- 
men, that I carried my port broadside in one 
coat pocket, and my starboard in the other. Up 
we came to the big Frenchman, took her fire, 
and scraped the paint off her before we let drive. 
But it was no use. By George, gentlemen, our 
balls just stuck in her timbers Uke stones in a 

121 



RODNEY STONE 

mud wall. She had her nettings up, but we 
scrambled aboard, and at it we went hammer 
and anvil. It was a sharp twenty minutes, but 
we beat her people down below, made the 
hatches fast on them, and towed her into Sea- 
ham. Surely you were with us. Sherry ? " 

" I was in London at the time," said Sheridan, 
gravely. 

" You can vouch for it, Francis ! " 

" I can vouch to having heard your Highness 
tell the story." 

" It was a rough little bit of cutlass and pistol 
work. But, for my own part, I like the rapier. 
It's a gentleman's weapon. You heard of my 
bout with the Chevalier d'Eon ? I had him at 
my sword-point for forty minutes at Angelo's. 
He was one of the best blades in Europe, but I 
was a little too supple in the wrist for him. ' I 
thank God there was a button on your High- 
ness's foil,' said he, when we had finished our 
breather. By the way, you're a bit of a duellist 
yourself, TregeUis. How often have you been 
out ? " 

" I used to go when I needed exercise," said 
my uncle, carelessly. " But I have taken to 
tennis now instead. A painful incident hap- 
pened the last time that I was out, and it sick- 
ened me of it." 

" You killed your man ? " 

122 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

*' No, no, sir, it was worse than that. 1 had a 
coat that Weston has never equalled. To say- 
that it fitted me is not to express it. It xvas me 
— like the hide on a horse. I've had sixty from 
him since, but he could never approach it. The 
sit of the collar brought tears into my eyes, sir, 
when first I saw it ; and as to the waist " 

" But the duel, Tregellis ! " cried the Prince. 

" Well, sir, I wore it at the duel, like the 
thoughtless fool that I was. It was Major 
Hunter, of the Guards, with whom I had had 
a little tracdsserie, because I hinted that he 
should not come into Erookes's smelling of the 
stables. I fired first, and missed. He fired, and 
I shrieked in despair. ' He's hit ! A surgeon ! 
A surgeon ! ' they cried. ' A tailor ! A tailor ! ' 
said I, for there was a double hole through the 
tails of my masterpiece. No, it was past all re- 
pair. You may laugh, sir, but I'll never see the 
hke of it again." 

I had seated myself on a settee in the corner, 
upon the Prince's invitation, and very glad I 
was to remain quiet and unnoticed, listening to 
the talk of these men. It was all in the same 
extravagant vein, garnished with many senseless 
oaths ; but I observed this difference, that, 
whereas my uncle and Sheridan had something 
of humour in their exaggeration, Francis tended 
always to ill-nature, and the Prince to self-glori- 

9 123 



RODNEY STONE 

fication. Finally, the conversation turned to 
music — I am not sure that my uncle did not art- 
fully bring it there, and the Prince, hearing from 
him of my tastes, would have it that I should 
then and there sit down at the wonderful little 
piano, all inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which 
stood in the corner, and play him the accompa- 
niment to his song. It was called, as I remem- 
ber, " The Briton Conquers but to Save," and he 
rolled it out in a very fair bass voice, the others 
joining in the chorus, and clapping vigorously 
when he finished. 

" Bravo, Mr. Stone ! " said he. " You have 
an excellent touch ; and I know what I am 
talking about when I speak of music. Cramer, 
of the Opera, said only the other day that he 
had rather hand his baton to me than to any 
amateur in England. Halloa, it's Charlie Fox, 
by all that's wonderful ! " 

He had run forward with much warmth, and 
was shaking the hand of a singular- looking per- 
son who had just entered the room. The new- 
comer was a stout, square-built man, plainly and 
almost carelessly dressed, with an uncouth man- 
ner and a rolling gait. His age might have 
been something over fifty, and his swarthy, 
harshly-featured face was already deeply lined 
either by his years or by his excesses. I have 
never seen a countenance in which the angel and 

124 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

the devil were more obviously wedded. Above, 
was the high, broad forehead of the philosopher, 
with keen, humorous eyes looking out from 
under thick, strong brows. Below, was the 
heavy jowl of the sensualist curving in a broad 
crease over his cravat. That brow was the brow 
of the public Charles Fox, the thinker, the phi- 
lanthropist, the man who raUied and led the 
Liberal party during the twenty most hazardous 
years of its existence. That jaw was the jaw of 
the private Charles Fox, the gambler, the hber- 
tine, the drunkard. Yet to his sins he never 
added the crowning one of hypocrisy. His 
vices were as open as his virtues. In some 
quaint freak of Nature, two spirits seemed to 
have been joined in one body, and the same 
frame to contain the best and the worst man of 
his age. 

" I've run down from Chertsey, sir, just to 
shake you by the hand, and to make sure that 
the Tories have not carried you off." 

" Hang it, Charhe, you know that I sink or 
swim with my friends ! A Whig I started, and 
a Whig I shall remain." 

I thought that I could read upon Fox's dark 
face that he was by no means so confident about 
the Prince's principles. 

" Pitt has been at you, sir, I understand ? " 

" Yes, confound him ! I hate the sight of 

125 



RODNEY STONE 

that sharp-pointed snout of his, which he wants 
to be ever poking into my affairs. He and 
Addington have been boggling about the debts 
again. Why, look ye, Charlie, if Pitt held me 
in contempt he could not behave different." 

I gathered from the smile which flitted over 
Sheridan's expressive face that this was exactly 
what Pitt did do. But straightway they all 
plunged into politics, varied by the drinking of 
sweet maraschino, which a footman brought 
round upon a salver. The King, the Queen, 
the Lords, and the Commons were each in suc- 
cession cursed by the Prince, in spite of the ex- 
cellent advice which he had given me about the 
British Constitution. 

" Why, they allow me so little that I can't 
look after my own people. There are a dozen 
annuities to old servants and the like, and it's all 
I can do to scrape the money together to pay 
them. However, my" — he pulled himself up 
and coughed in a consequential way — "my fi- 
nancial agent has arranged for a loan, repayable 
upon the King's death. This liqueur isn't good 
for either of us, Charlie. We're both getting 
monstrous stout." 

" I can't get any exercise for the gout," said 
Fox. 

" I am blooded fifty ounces a month, but the 
more I take the more I make. You wouldn't 

126 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

think, to look at us, Tregellis, that we could do 
what we have done. We've had some days and 
nights together, Charlie ! " 

Fox smiled and shook his head. 

" You remember how we posted to New- 
market before the races. We took a pubhc 
coach, TregelUs, clapped the postillions into the 
rumble, and jumped on to their places. CharUe 
rode the leader and I the wheeler. One fellow 
wouldn't let us through his turnpike, and Charhe 
hopped off, and had his coat off in a minute. 
The fellow thought he had to do with a fighting 
man, and soon cleared the way for us." 

*' By the way, sir, speaking of fighting men, T 
give a supper to the Fancy at the Waggon and 
Horses on Friday next," said my uncle. " If 
you should chance to be in town, they would 
think it a great honour if you should condescend 
to look in upon us." 

"I've not seen a fight since I saw Tom Tyne, 
the tailor, kill Earl fourteen years ago. I swore 
off then, and you know me as a man of my 
word, Tregellis. Of course, I've been at the 
ringside incog, many a time, but never as the 
Prince of Wales." 

" We should be vastly honoured if you would 
come incog, to our supper, sir." 

" Well, well. Sherry, make a note of it. We'll 
be at Carlton House on Friday. The Prince 

127 



RODNEY STONE 

can't come, you know, Tregellis, but you might 
reserve a chair for the Earl of Chester." 

" Sir, we shall be proud to see the Earl of 
Chester there," said my uncle. 

" By the way, Tregellis," said Fox, " there's 
some rumour about your having a sporting bet 
with Sir Lothian Hume. What's the truth of it ? " 

" Only a small matter of a couple of thous to 
a thou, he giving the odds. He has a fancy to 
this new Gloucester man. Crab Wilson, and I'm 
to find a man to beat him. Anything under 
twenty or over thirty-five, at or about thirteen 
stone." 

" You take Charlie Fox's advice, then," cried 
the Prince. "When it comes to handicapping a 
horse, playing a hand, matching a cock, or pick- 
ing a man, he has the best judgment in England. 
Now, Charlie, whom have we upon the list who 
can beat Crab Wilson, of Gloucester ? " 

1 was amazed at the interest and knowledge 
which all these great people showed about the 
ring, for they not only had the deeds of the 
principal men of the time — Belcher, Mendoza, 
Jackson, or Dutch Sam — at their fingers' ends, 
but there was no fighting man so obscure that 
they did not know the details of his deeds and 
prospects. The old ones and then the young 
were discussed — their weight, their gameness, 
their hitting power, and their constitution. 

128 



THE HOPE OF ENGLAND 

Who, as he saw Sheridan and Fox eagerly ar- 
guing as to whether Caleb Baldwin, the West- 
minster costermonger, could hold his own with 
Isaac Bittoon, the Jew, would have guessed that 
the one was the deepest political philosopher in 
Europe, and that the other would be remembered 
as the author of the wittiest comedy and of the 
finest speech of his generation ? 

The name of Champion Harrison came very 
early into the discussion, and Fox, who had a 
high idea of Crab Wilson's powers, was of opinion 
that my uncle's only chance lay in the veteran 
taking the field again. " He may be slow on his 
pins, but he fights with his head, and he hits like 
the kick of a horse. When he finished Black 
Baruk the man flew across the outer ring as well 
as the inner, and fell among the spectators. If 
he isn't absolutely stale, Tregellis, he is your best 
chance." 

My uncle shrugged his shoulders. 

" If poor Avon were here we might do some- 
thing with him, for he was Harrison's first patron, 
and the man was devoted to him. But his wife 
is too strong for me. And now, sir, I must leave 
you, for I have had the misfortune to-day to lose 
the best valet in England, and I must make in- 
quiry for him. I thank your Royal Highness 
for your kindness in receiving my nephew in so 
gracious a fashion." 

129 



RODNEY STONE 

" Till Friday, then," said the Prince, holding 
out his hand. " I have to go up to town in any 
ease, for there is a poor devil of an East India 
Company's officer who has written to me in his 
distress. If I can raise a few hundreds, I shall 
see him and set things right for him. Now, Mr. 
Stone, you have your life before you, and I hope 
it will be one which your uncle may be proud of 
You will honour the King, and show respect for 
the Constitution, Mr. Stone. And, hark ye, 
you will avoid debt, and bear in mind that your 
honour is a sacred thing." 

So I carried away a last impression of his sen- 
sual, good-humoured face, his high cravat, and 
his broad leather thighs. Again we passed the 
strange rooms, the gilded monsters, and the gor- 
geous footmen, and it was with relief that I 
found myself out in the open air once more, 
with the broad blue sea in front of us, and the 
fresh evening breeze upon our faces. 



130 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

My uncle and I were up betimes next morning, 
but he was much out of temper, for no news had 
been heard of his valet Ambrose. He had in- 
deed become like one of those ants of which I 
have read, who are so accustomed to be fed by 
smaller ants that when they are left to them- 
selves they die of hunger. It was only by 
the aid of a man whom the landlord procured, 
and of Fox's valet, who had been sent ex- 
pressly across, that his toilet was at last per- 
formed. 

" I must win this race, nephew," said he, when 
he had finished breakfast ; " I can't afford to be 
beat. Look out of the window and see if the 
Lades are there." 

" I see a red four-in-hand in the square, and 
there is a crowd round it. Yes, I see the lady 
upon the box seat." 

" Is our tandem out ? " 

" It is at the door." 

" Come, then, and you shall have such a drive 
as you never had before." 

He stood at the door pulling on his long brown 

131 



RODNEY STONE 

driving-gauntlets and giving his orders to the 
ostlers. 

" Every ounce will tell," said he. " We'll leave 
that dinner-basket behind. And you can keep 
my dog for me, Coppinger. You know him and 
understand him. Let him have his warm milk 
and curacoa the same as usual. Whoa, my dar- 
lings, you'll have your fill of it before you reach 
Westminster Bridge." 

" Shall I put in the toilet-case ? " asked the 
landlord. 

I saw the struggle upon my uncle's face, but 
he was true to his principles. 

" Put it under the seat — the front seat," said 
he. " Nephew, you must keep your weight as 
far forward as possible. Can you do anything on 
a yard of tin ? Well, if you can't, we'll leave the 
trumpet. Buckle that girth up, Thomas. Have 
you greased the hubs as I told you ? Well, jump 
up, nephew, and we'll see them off." 

Quite a crowd had gathered in the Old Square : 
men and women, dark-coated tradesmen, bucks 
from the Prince's Court, and officers from Hove, 
all in a buzz of excitement ; for Sir John Lade 
and my uncle were two of the most famous 
whips of the time, and a match between them 
was a thing to talk of for many a long day. 

" The Prince will be sorry to have missed the 
start," said my uncle. " He doesn't show before 

132 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

midday. Ah, Jack, good morning ! Your ser- 
vant, madam I It's a fine day for a little bit of 
waggoning." 

As our tandem came alongside of the four-in- 
hand, with the two bonny bay mares gleaming 
like shot-silk in the sunshine, a murmur of ad- 
miration rose from the crowd. My uncle, in his 
fawn-coloured driving- coat, with all his harness 
of the same tint, looked the ideal of a Corinthian 
whip ; while Sir John Lade, with his many-caped 
coat, his white hat, and his rough, weather-beaten 
face, might have taken his seat with a fine of 
professionals upon any ale-house bench without 
any one being able to pick him out as one of the 
wealthiest landowners in England. It was an 
age of eccentricity, but he had carried his pecul- 
iarities to a length which surprised even the out- 
and-outers by marrying the sweetheart of a fa- 
mous highwayman when the gallows had come 
between her and her lover. She was perched by 
his side, looking very smart in a flowered bonnet 
and grey travelling-dress, while in front of them 
the four splendid coal-black horses, with a flick- 
ering touch of gold upon their powerful, well- 
curved quarters, were pawing the dust in their 
eagerness to be off*. 

" It's a hundred that you don't see us before 
Westminster with a quarter of an hour's start," 
said Sir John. 

133 



RODNEY STONE 

" I'll take you another hundred that we pass 
you," answered my uncle. 

" Very good. Time's up. Good-bye ! " He 
gave a tchk of the tongue, shook his reins, saluted 
with his whip, in true coachman's style, and away 
he went, taking the curve out of the square in a 
workmanlike fashion that fetched a cheer from 
the crowd. We heard the dwindling roar of the 
wheels upon the cobble-stones until they died 
away in the distance. 

It seemed one of the longest quarters of an 
hour that I had ever known before the first stroke 
of nine boomed from the parish clock. For my 
part, I was fidgeting in my seat in my impatience, 
but my uncle's calm, pale face and large blue 
eyes were as tranquil and demure as those of the 
most unconcerned spectator. He was keenly on 
the alert, however, and it seemed to me that the 
stroke of the clock and the thong of his whip feU 
together — not in a blow, but in a sharp snap over 
the leader, which sent us flying with a jingle and 
a rattle upon our fifty miles' journey. I heard a 
roar from behind us, saw the gliding hues of 
windows with staring faces and waving handker- 
chiefs, and then we were off the stones and on to 
the good white road which curved away in front 
of us, with the sweep of the green downs upon 
either side. 

I had been provided with shillings that the 

134 






THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

turnpike-gate might not stop us, but my uncle 
reined in the mares and took them at a very easy 
trot up all the heavy stretch which ends in Clay- 
ton Hill. He let them go then, and we flashed 
through Friar's Oak and across St. John's Com- 
mon without more than catching a glimpse of the 
yellow cottage which contained all that I loved 
best. Never have I travelled at such a pace, and 
never have I felt such a sense of exhilaration 
from the rush of keen upland air upon our faces, 
and from the sight of those two glorious creatures 
stretched to their utmost, with the roar of their 
hoofs and the rattle of our wheels as the light 
mail phaeton bounded and swayed behind them. 

" It's a long four miles uphill from here to 
Hand Cross," said my uncle, as we flew through 
Cuckfield. " I must ease them a bit, for I can- 
not afford to break the hearts of my cattle. 
They have the right blood in them, and they 
would gallop until they dropped if I were brute 
enough to let them. Stand up on the seat, 
nephew, and see if you can get a glimpse of 
them." 

I stood up, steadying myself upon my uncle's 
shoulder, but though I could see for a mile, or 
perhaps a quarter more, there was not a sign of 
the four-in-hand. 

" If he has sprung his cattle up all these hills 
they'll be spent ere they see Croydon," said he. 

135 



RODNEY STONE 

" They have four to two," said I. 

" J'en suis bien sur. Sir John's black strain 
makes a good, honest creature, but not fliers hke 
these. There Hes Cuckfield Place, where the 
towers are, yonder. Get your weight right for- 
ward on the splashboard now that we are going 
uphill, nephew. Look at the action of that 
leader : did ever you see anything more easy and 
more beautiful ? " 

We were taking the hill at a quiet trot, but 
even so, we made the carrier, walking in the 
shadow of his huge, broad- wheeled, canvas-cov- 
ered waggon, stare at us in amazement. Close 
to Hand Cross we passed the Royal Brighton 
stage, which had left at half-past seven, dragging 
heavily up the slope, and its passengers, toiling 
along through the dust behind, gave us a cheer 
as we whirled by. At Hand Cross we caught a 
glimpse of the old landlord, hurrying out with 
his gin and his gingerbread ; but the dip of the 
ground was downwards now, and away we flew 
as fast as eight gallant hoofs could take us. 

" Do you drive, nephew ? " 

" Very little, sir." 

" There is no driving on the Brighton Road." 

" How is that, sir ? " 

" Too good a road, nephew. I have only to 
give them their heads, and they will race me 
into Westminster. It wasn't always so. When 

136 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

I was a very young man one might learn to 
handle his twenty yards of tape here as well as 
elsewhere. There's not much really good wag- 
goning now south of I^eicestershire. Show me 
a man who can hit em and hold 'em on a York- 
shire daleside, and that's the man who comes 
from the right school." 

We had raced over Crawley Down and into 
the broad main street of Crawley village, flying 
between two country waggons in a way which 
showed me that even now a driver might do 
something on the road. With every turn I 
peered ahead, looking for our opponents, but my 
uncle seemed to concern himself very little about 
them, and occupied himself in giving me advice, 
mixed up with so many phrases of the craft, that 
it was all that I could do to follow him. 

" Keep a finger for each, or you will have 
your reins clubbed," said he. " As to the whip, 
the less fanning the better if you have wiUing 
cattle ; but when you want to put a Uttle Ufe 
into a coach, see that you get your thong on to 
the one that needs it, and don't let it fly round 
after you've hit. I've seen a driver warm up the 
off'-side passenger on the roof behind him every 
time he tried to cut his off-side wheeler. I be- 
lieve that is their dust over yonder." 

A long stretch of road lay before us, barred 
with the shadows of wayside trees. Through 

137 



RODNEY STONE 

the green fields a lazy blue river was drawing it- 
self slowly along, passing under a bridge in front 
of us. Beyond was a young fir plantation, and 
over its olive line there rose a white whirl which 
drifted swiftly, like a cloud-scud on a breezy 
day. 

" Yes, yes, it's they ! " cried my uncle. " No 
one else would travel as fast. Come, nephew, 
we're half-way when we cross the mole at Kim- 
berham Bridge, and we've done it in two hours 
and fourteen minutes. The Prince drove to 
Carlton House with a three tandem in four 
hours and a half The first half is the worst 
half, and we might cut his time if all goes well. 
We should make up between this and Reigate." 

And we flew. The bay mares seemed to 
know what that white puff in front of us signi- 
fied, and they stretched themselves like grey- 
hounds. We passed a phaeton and pair Lon- 
don-bound, and we left it behind as if it had 
been standing still. Trees, gates, cottages went 
dancing by. We heard the folks shouting from 
the fields, under the impression that we were a 
runaway. Faster and faster yet they raced, the 
hoofs rattling like castanets, the yellow manes 
flying, the wheels buzzing, and every joint and 
rivet creaking and groaning, while the vehicle 
swung and swayed until I found myself clutch- 
ing to the side-rail. My uncle eased them and 

138 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

glanced at his watch as we saw the grey tiles 
and dingy red houses of Reigate in the hollow 
beneath us. 

" We did the last six well under twenty min- 
utes," said he. " We've time in hand now, and 
a little water at the Red Lion will do them no 
harm. Red four-in-hand passed, ostler ? " 

" Just gone, sir." 

" Going hard ? " 

" Galloping full split, sir ! Took the wheel off 
a butcher's cart at the corner of the High Street, 
and was out o' sight before the butcher's boy 
could see what had hurt him." 

Z-z-z-z-ack! went the long thong, and away 
we flew once more. It was market day at Red- 
hill, and the road was crowded with carts of 
produce, droves of bullocks, and farmers' gigs. 
It was a sight to see how my uncle threaded his 
way amongst them all. Through the market- 
place we dashed amidst the shouting of men, the 
screaming of women, and the scuttling of poul- 
try, and then we were out in the country again, 
with the long, steep incline of the Redhill Road 
before us. My uncle waved his whip in the air 
with a shriU view- halloa. 

There was the dust-cloud roUing up the hill in 
front of us, and through it we had a shadowy 
peep of the backs of our opponents, with a flash 
of brass-work and a gleam of scarlet. 

10 139 



RODNEY STONE 

" There's half the game won, nephew. Now 
we must pass them. Hark forrard, my beauties ! 
By George, if Kitty isn't foundered ! " 

The leader had suddenly gone dead lame. In 
an instant we were both out of the phaeton and 
on our knees beside her. It was but a stone, 
wedged between frog and shoe in the off fore- 
foot, but it was a minute or two before we could 
wrench it out. When we had regained our 
places the Lades were round the curve of the 
hill and out of sight. 

" Bad luck ! " growled my uncle. " But they 
can't get away from us ! " For the first time he 
touched the mares up, for he had but cracked 
the whip over their heads before. "If we catch 
them in the next few miles we can spare them 
for the rest of the way." 

They were beginning to show signs of exhaus- 
tion. Their breath came quick and hoarse, and 
their beautiful coats were matted with moisture. 
At the top of the hill, however, they settled 
down into their swing once more. 

" Where on earth have they got to ? " cried 
my uncle. " Can you make them out on the 
road, nephew ? " 

We could see a long white ribbon of it, all 
dotted with carts and waggons coming from 
Croydon to Redhill, but there was no sign of the 
big red four-in-hand. 

HO 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

" There they are ! Stole away ! Stole away ! " 
he cried, wheeling the mares round into a side 
road which struck to the right out of that which 
we had travelled. " There they are, nephew ! 
On the brow of the hill ! " 

Sure enough, on the rise of a curve upon our 
right the four-in-liand had appeared, the horses 
stretched to the utmost. Our mares laid them- 
selves out gallantly, and the distance between us 
began slowly to decrease. I found that I could 
see the black band upon Sir John's white hat, 
then that I could count the folds of his cape ; 
finally, that I could see the pretty features of his 
wife as she looked back at us. 

"We're on the side road to Godstone and 
Warlingham," said my uncle. " I suppose he 
thought that he could make better time by get- 
ting out of the way of the market carts. But 
we've got the deuce of a hill to come down. 
You'll see some fun, nephew, or I am mis- 
taken." 

As he spoke I suddenly saw the wheels of the 
four-in-hand disappear, then the body of it, and 
then the two figures upon the box, as suddenly 
and abruptly as if it had bumped down the first 
three steps of some gigantic stairs. An instant 
later we had reached the same spot, and there 
was the road beneath us, steep and narrow, wind- 
ing in long curves into the valley. The four-in- 

141 



RODNEY STONE 

hand was swishing down it as hard as the horses 
could gallop. 

" Thought so ! " cried my uncle. "If he 
doesn't brake, why should I ? Now, my dar- 
lings, one good spurt, and we'll show them the 
colour of our tailboard." 

We shot over the brow and flew madly down 
the hill with the great red coach roaring and 
thundering before us. Already we were in her 
dust, so that we could see nothing but the dim 
scarlet blur in the heart of it, rocking and rolhng, 
with its outline hardening at every stride. We 
could hear the crack of the whip in front of us, 
and the shrill voice of Lady Lade as she screamed 
to the horses. INIy uncle was very quiet, but 
when I glanced up at him I saw that his lips 
were set and his eyes shining, with just a lit- 
tle flush upon each pale cheek. There was no 
need to urge on the mares, for they were already 
flying at a pace which could neither be stopped 
nor controlled. Our leader's head came abreast 
of the off" hind wheel, then of the off" front one — 
then for a hundred yards we did not gain an 
inch, and then with a spurt the bay leader was 
neck to neck with the black wheeler, and our 
fore wheel within an inch of their hind one. 

" Dusty work ! " said my uncle, quietly. 

" Fan 'em, Jack I Fan 'em ! " shrieked the 

lady. 

142 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

He sprang up and lashed at his horses. 

" Look out, TregeUis ! " he shouted. " There's 
a damnation spill coming for somebody." 

We had got fairly abreast of them now, the 
rumps of the horses exactly a- line and the fore 
wheels whizzing together. There was not six 
inches to spare in the breadth of the road, and 
every instant I expected to feel the jar of a lock- 
ing wheel. But now, as we came out from the 
dust, we could see what was ahead, and my uncle 
whistled between his teeth at the sight. 

Two hundred yards or so in front of us there 
was a bridge, with wooden posts and rails upon 
either side. The road narrowed down at the 
point, so that it was obvious that the two car- 
riages abreast could not possibly get over. One 
must give way to the other. Already our 
wheels were abreast of their wheelers. 

" I lead I " shouted my uncle. " You must 
pull them, Lade ! " 

" Not I ! " he roared. 

" No, by George ! " shrieked her ladyship. 
" Fan 'em, Jack ; keep on fanning 'em ! " 

It seemed to me that we were all going to 
eternity together. But my uncle did the only 
thing that could have saved us. By a desperate 
effort we might just clear the coach before reach- 
ing the mouth of the bridge. He sprang up, 
and lashed right and left at the mares, who, 

143 



RODNEY STONE 

maddened by the unaccustomed pain, hurled 
themselves on in a frenzy. Down we thundered 
together, all shouting, I believe, at the top of 
our voices in the madness of the moment ; but 
still we were drawing steadily away, and we 
were almost clear of the leaders when we flew 
on to the bridge. I glanced back at the coach, 
and I saw Lady Lade, with her savage little 
white teeth clenched together, throw herself 
forward and tug with both hands at the off-side 
reins. 

" Jam them, Jack ! " she cried. " Jam the 
before they can pass." 

Had she done it an instant sooner we should 
have crashed against the wood- work, carried it 
away, and been hurled into the deep gully be- 
low. As it was, it was not the powerful haunch 
of the black leader which caught our wheel, but 
the forequarter, which had not weight enough to 
turn us from our course. I saw a red wet seam 
gape suddenly through the black hair, and next 
instant we were flying alone down the road, 
whilst the four-in-hand had halted, and Sir John 
and his lady were down in the road together 
tending to the wounded horse. 

" Easy now, my beauties ! " cried my uncle, 
settling down into his seat again, and looking 
back over his shoulder. " I could not have be- 
lieved that Sir John T^ade would have been 

144 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

guilty of such a trick as pulling that leader 
across. I do not permit a mauvaise plaisanterie 
of that sort. He shall hear from me to- 
night." 

" It was the lady," said I. 

My uncle's brow cleared, and he began to 
laugh. 

" It was little Letty, was it ? " said he. " I 
might have known it. There's a touch of the 
late lamented Sixteen-string Jack about the 
trick. Well, it is only messages of another kind 
that I send to a lady, so we'll just drive on our 
way, nephew, and thank our stars that we bring 
whole bones over the Thames." 

We stopped at the Greyhound, at Croydon, 
where the two good little mares were sponged 
and petted and fed, after which, at an easier 
pace, we made our way through Norbury and 
Streatham. At last the fields grew fewer and 
the walls longer. The outlying villas closed up 
thicker and thicker, until their shoulders met, 
and we were driving between a double hne of 
houses with garish shops at the corners, and 
such a stream of traffic as I had never seen, roar- 
ing down the centre. Then suddenly we were 
on a broad bridge with a dark coffee- brovni river 
flowing sulkily beneath it, and bluff- bowed 
barges drifting down upon its bosom. To right 
and left stretched a broken, irregular hne of 

115 



RODNEY STONE 

many-coloured houses winding along either bank 
as far as I could see. 

" That's the House of Parliament, nephew," 
said my uncle, pointing with his whip, " and the 
black towers are Westminster Abbey, How do, 
your Grace? How do? That's the Duke of 
Norfolk — the stout man in blue upon the swish- 
tailed mare. Now we are in Whitehall. There's 
the Treasury on the left, and the Horse Guards, 
and the Admiralty, where the stone dolphins are 
carved above the gate." 

I had the idea, which a country-bred lad 
brings up with him, that London was merely a 
wilderness of houses, but I was astonished now 
to see the green slopes and the lovely spring 
trees showing between. 

" Yes, those are the Privy Gardens," said my 
uncle, "and there is the window out of which 
Charles took his last step on to the scaffold. 
You wouldn't think the mares had come fifty 
miles, would you ? See how les petites cJmies 
step out for the credit of their master. Look at 
the barouche, with the sharp-featured man peep- 
ing out of the window. That's Pitt, going down 
to the House. We are coming into Pall INIall 
now, and this great building on the left is Carl- 
ton House, the Prince's Palace. There's St. 
James's, the big, dingy place with the clock, and 
the two red- coated sentries before it. And 

146 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 

here's the famous street of the same name, 
nephew, which is the very centre of the world, 
and here's Jermyn Street opening out of it, and 
finally, here's my own little box, and we are well 
under the five hours from Brighton Old Square." 



147 



CHAPTER IX 

WATIER'S 

My uncle's house in Jermyn Street was quite a 
small one — five rooms and an attic. " A man- 
cook and a cottage," he said, " are all that a wise 
man requires." On the other hand, it was fur- 
nished with the neatness and taste which be- 
longed to his character, so that his most luxu- 
rious friends found something in the tiny rooms 
which made them discontented with their own 
sumptuous mansions. Even the attic, which 
had been converted into my bedroom, was the 
most perfect little bijou attic that could possibly 
be imagined. Beautiful and valuable knick- 
knacks filled every corner of every apartment, 
and the house had become a perfect miniature 
museum which would have dehghted a virtuoso. 
My uncle explained the presence of all these 
pretty things with a shrug of his shoulders and 
a wave of his hands. " They are des petites 
cadeaua^,'' said he, " but it would be an indiscre- 
tion for me to say more." 

We found a note from Ambrose waiting for 
us which increased rather than explained the 
mystery of his disappearance. 

148 



WATIER'S 

" My dear Sir Charles Tregellis," it ran, " it 
will ever be a subject of regret to me that the 
force of circumstances should have compelled me 
to leave your service in so abrupt a fashion, but 
something occurred during our journey from 
Friar's Oak to Brighton which left me without 
any possible alternative. I trust, however, that 
my absence may prove to be but a temporary 
one. The isinglass recipe for the shirt-fronts is 
in the strong-box at Drummond's Bank. — Yours 
obediently, Ambrose." 

" Well, I suppose I must fill his place as best 
I can," said my uncle, moodily. " But how on 
earth could something have occurred to make 
him leave me at a time when we were going full- 
trot down hill in my curricle? I shall never 
find his match again either for chocolate or 
cravats. Je siiis dcsole ! But now, nephew, we 
must send to Weston and have you fitted up. 
It is not for a gentleman to go to a shop, but for 
the shop to come to the gentleman. Until you 
have your clothes you must remain en i^etraite" 

The measuring was a most solemn and serious 
function, though it was nothing to the trying-on 
two days later, when my uncle stood by in an 
agony of apprehension as each garment was ad- 
justed, he and Weston arguing over every seam 
and lapel and skirt until I was dizzy with turn- 
ing round in front of them. Then, just as I had 

149 



RODNEY STONE 

hoped that all was settled, in came young Mr. 
Brummell, who promised to be an even greater 
exquisite than my uncle, and the whole matter 
had to be thrashed out between them. He was 
a good-sized man, this Brummell, with a long, 
fair face, light brown hair, and slight sandy side- 
whiskers. His manner was languid, his voice 
drawling, and while he eclipsed my uncle in the 
extravagance of his speech, he had not the air of 
manliness and decision which underlay all my 
kinsman's affectations. 

" Why, George," cried my uncle, " I thought 
you were with your regiment." 

" I've sent in my papers," drawled the other. 

" I thought it would come to that." 

" Yes. The Tenth was ordered to Manchester, 
and they could hardly expect me to go to a place 
like that. Besides, I found the major monstrous 
rude." 

" How was that ? " 

" He expected me to know about his absurd 
drill, Tregellis, and I had other things to think 
of, as you may suppose. I had no difficulty in 
taking my right place on parade, for there was a 
trooper with a red nose on a flea-bitten grey, and 
I had observed that my post was always im- 
mediately in front of him. This saved a great 
deal of trouble. The other day, however, when 
I came on parade, I galloped up one line and 

150 



WATIER'S 

down the other, but the deuce a glimpse could I 
get of that long nose of his ! Then, just as I 
was at my wits' end, I caught sight of him, alone 
at one side ; so I formed up in front. It seems 
he had been put there to keep the ground, and 
the major so far forgot himself as to say that I 
knew nothing of my duties." 

My uncle laughed, and Brummell looked me 
up and down with his large, intolerant eyes. 

" These will do very passably," said he. " Buff 
and blue are always very gentlemanlike. But a 
sprigged waistcoat would have been better." 

" I think not," said my uncle, warmly. 

•' My dear Tregellis, you are infallible upon a 
cravat, but you must allow me the riglit of my 
own judgment upon vests. I like it vastly as it 
stands, but a touch of red sprig would give it the 
finish that it needs." 

They argued with many examples and analo- 
gies for a good ten minutes, revolving round 
me at the same time with their heads on one side 
and their glasses to their eyes. It was a relief to 
me when they at last agreed upon a compromise. 

" You must not let anything I have said shake 
your faith in Sir Charles's judgment, Mr. Stone," 
said Brummell, very earnestly. 

I assured him that I should not. 

" If you were my nephew, I should expect 

you to follow my taste. But you will cut a very 

151 



RODNEY STONE 

good figure as it is. I had a young cousin who 
came up to town last year with a recommenda- 
tion to my care. But he would take no advice. 
At the end of the second week I met him coming 
down St. James's Street in a snuff-coloured coat 
cut by a country tailor. He bowed to me. Of 
course I knew what was due to myself. I looked 
all round him, and there was an end to his career 
in town. You are from the country, Mr. Stone ? " 

" From Sussex, sir." 

" Sussex ! Why, that is where I send my 
washing to. There is an excellent clear-starcher 
living near Hayward's Heath. I send my shirts 
two at a time, for if you send more it excites the 
woman and diverts her attention. I cannot 
abide anything but country washing. But I 
should be vastly sorry to have to live there. 
What can a man find to do ? " 

" You don't hunt, George ? " 

*' When I do, it's a woman. But surely you 
don't go to hounds, Charles ? " 

*' I was out with the Belvoir last winter." 

" The Belvoir ! Did you hear how I smoked 
Rutland ? The story has been in the clubs this 
month past. I bet him that my bag would 
weigh more than his. He got three and a half 
brace, but I shot his liver-coloured pointer, so he 
had to pay. But as to hunting, what amuse- 
ment can there be in flying about among a 

152 



WATIER'S 

crowd of greasy, galloping farmers ? Every man 
to his own taste, but Brookes's window by day 
and a snug corner of the macao table at Watier's 
by night, give me all I want for mind and body. 
You heard how I plucked Montague the brewer I" 

*' I have been out of town." 

" I had eight thousand from him at a sitting. 
* I shall drink your beer in future, Mr. Brewer,' 
said I. ' Every blackguard in London does,' 
said he. It was monstrous impolite of him, but 
some people cannot lose with grace. Well, I am 
going down to Clarges Street to pay Jew King a 
little of my interest. Are you bound that way ? 
Well, good-bye, then ! I'll see you and your 
young friend at the club or in the Mall, no 
doubt," and he sauntered off upon his way. 

" That young man is destined to take my 
place," said my uncle, gravely, when Brummell 
had departed. " He is quite young and of no 
descent, but he has made his way by his cool ef- 
frontery, his natural taste, and his extravagance 
of speech. There is no man who can be impolite 
in so polished a fashion. He has a half-smile, 
and a way of raising his eyebrows, for which he 
will be shot one of these mornings. Already his 
opinion is quoted in the clubs as a rival to my 
own. Well, every man has his day, and when I 
am convinced that mine is passed, St. James's 
Street shall know me no more, for it is not in 

153 



RODNEY STONE 

my nature to be second to any man. But now, 
nephew, in that buff and blue suit you may pass 
anywhere ; so, if you please, we will step into my 
vis-a-vis, and I will show you something of the 
town." 

How can I describe all that we saw and all 
that we did upon that lovely spring day ? To 
me it was as if I had been wafted to a fairy 
world, and my uncle might have been some be- 
nevolent enchanter in a high-coUared, long-tailed 
coat, who was guiding me about in it. He 
showed me the West-end streets, with the bright 
carriages and the gaily dressed ladies and sombre- 
clad men, all crossing and hurrying and recross- 
ing like an ants' nest when you turn it over with 
a stick. Never had I formed a conception of 
such endless banks of houses, and such a cease- 
less stream of life flowing between. Then we 
passed down the Strand, where the crowd was 
thicker than ever, and even penetrated beyond 
Temple Bar and into the City, though my uncle 
begged me not to mention it, for he would not 
wish it to be generally known. There I saw the 
Exchange and the Bank and Lloyd's Coffee 
House, with the brown- coated, sharp-faced mer- 
chants and the hurrying clerks, the huge horses 
and the busy draymen. It was a very different 
world this from that which we had left in the 
West — a world of energy and of strength, where 

154 



WATIER'S 

there was no place for the Ustless and the idle. 
Young as I was, I knew that it was here, in the 
forest of merchant shipping, in the bales which 
swung up to the warehouse windows, in the 
loaded waggons which roared over the cobble- 
stones, that the power of Britain lay. Here, in 
the City of London, was the taproot from which 
Empire and wealth and so many other fine leaves 
had sprouted. Fashion and speech and manners 
may change, but the spirit of enterprise within 
that square mile or two of land must not change, 
for when it withers all that has grown from it 
must wither also. 

We lunched at Stephen's, the fashionable inn 
in Bond Street, where I saw a line of tilburys 
and saddle-horses, which stretched from the door 
to the further end of the street. And thence we 
went to the Mall in St. James's Park, and thence 
to Brookes's, the great Whig club, and thence 
again to Watier's, where the men of fashion used 
to gamble. Everywhere I met the same sort of 
men, with their stiff figures and small waists, all 
showing the utmost deference to my uncle, and 
for his sake an easy tolerance of me. The talk 
was always such as I had already heard at the 
Pavilion : talk of politics, talk of the King's 
health, talk of the Prince's extravagance, of the 
expected renewal of war, of horse-racing, and of 
the ring. I saw, too, that eccentricity was, as 
11 155 



RODNEY STONE 

my uncle had told me, the fashion ; and if the 
folk upon the Continent look upon us even to 
this day as being a nation of lunatics, it is no 
doubt a tradition handed down from the time 
when the only travellers whom they were likely 
to see were drawn from the class which I was 
now meeting. 

It was an age of heroism and of folly. On the 
one hand soldiers, sailors, and statesmen of the 
quality of Pitt, Nelson, and afterwards Welling- 
ton, had been forced to the front by the imminent 
menace of Buonaparte. We were great in arms, 
and were soon also to be great in literature, for 
Scott and Byron were in their day the strongest 
forces in Europe. On the other hand, a touch 
of madness, real or assumed, was a passport 
through doors which were closed to wisdom and 
to virtue. The man who could enter a drawing- 
room walking upon his hands, the man who had 
filed his teeth that he might whistle like a coach- 
man, the man who always spoke his thoughts 
aloud and so kept his guests in a quiver of ap- 
prehension, these were the people who found it 
easy to come to the front in London society. 
Nor could the heroism and the folly be kept 
apart, for there were few who could quite escape 
the contagion of the times. In an age when the 
Premier was a heavy drinker, the Leader of the 
Opposition a hbertine, and the Prince of Wales 

156 



WATIER'S 

a combination of the two, it was hard to know 
where to look for a man whose private and pub- 
he characters were equally lofty. At the same 
time, with all its faults it was a strong age, and 
you will be fortunate if in your time the country 
produces five such names as Pitt, Fox, Scott, 
Nelson, and Wellington. 

It was in Watier's that night, seated by my 
uncle on one of the red velvet settees at the side 
of the room, that I had pointed out to me some 
of those singular characters whose fame and ec- 
centricities are even now not wholly forgotten in 
the world. The long, many-pillared room, with 
its mirrors and chandeliers, was crowded with 
full-blooded, loud-voiced men-about-town, all in 
the same dark evening dress with white silk 
stockings, cambric shirt-fronts, and little, flat cha- 
peau-bras under their arms. 

" The acid-faced old gentleman with the thin 
legs is the Marquis of Queensberry," said my un- 
cle. " His chaise was driven nineteen miles in 
an hour in a match against the Count Taafe, and 
he sent a message fifty miles in thirty minutes 
by throwing it from hand to hand in a cricket- 
ball. The man he is talking to is Sir Charles 
Bunbury, of the Jockey Club, who had the Prince 
warned off the Heath at Newmarket on account 
of the in-and-out riding of Sam Chifney, his 

jockey. There's Captain Barclay going up to 

157 



RODNEY STONE 

them now. He knows more about training 
than any man ahve, and he has walked ninety 
miles in twenty-one hours. You have only to 
look at his calves to see that Nature built him 
for it. There's another walker there, the man 
with a flowered vest standing near the fireplace. 
That is Buck Whalley, who walked to Jerusa- 
lem in a long blue coat, top-boots, and buck- 
skins." 

" Why did he do that, sir ? " I asked, in as- 
tonishment. 

My uncle shrugged his shoulders. 

" It was his humour," said he. " He walked 
into society through it, and that was better worth 
reaching than Jerusalem. There's Lord Peter- 
sham, the man with the beaky nose. He al- 
ways rises at six in the evening, and he has 
laid down the finest cellar of snufF in Europe. 
It was he who ordered his valet to put half a 
dozen of sherry by his bed and call him the day 
after to-morrow. He's talking to Lord Pan- 
mure, who can take his six bottles of claret and 
argue with a bishop after it. The lean man with 
the weak knees is General Scott, who lives upon 
toast and water and has won £200,000 at whist. 
He is talking to young Lord Blandford, who gave 
£1800 for a Boccaccio the other day. Evening, 
Dudley ! " 

" Evening, TregeUis ! " an elderly, vacant- 

158 



I 



WATIER'S 

looking man had stopped before us and was 
looking me up and down. 

" Some young cub Charlie Tregellis has caught 
in the country," he murmured. " He doesn't 
look as if he would be much credit to him. Been 
out of town, Tregellis ? " 

" For a few days." 

*' Hem ! " said the man, transferring his sleepy 
gaze to my uncle. " He's looking pretty bad. 
He'll be going into the country feet foremost 
some of these days if he doesn't pull up ! " He 
nodded, and passed on. 

" You mustn't look so mortified, nephew," 
said my uncle, smiling. " That's old Lord 
Dudley, and he has a trick of thinking aloud. 
People used to be offended, but they take no 
notice of him now. It was only last week, 
when he was dining at Lord Elgin's, that he 
apologized to the company for the shocking 
bad cooking. He thought he was at his own 
table, you see. It gives him a place of his 
own in society. That's Lord Harewood he 
has fastened on to now. Harewood's pecul- 
iarity is to mimic the Prince in everything. 
One day the Prince hid his queue behind the 
collar of his coat, so Harewood cut his off, 
thinking that they were going out of fashion. 
Here's Lumley, the ugly man. ' Lliomme laid ' 
they called him in Paris. The other one is 

159 



RODNEY STONE 

Lord Foley — they call him No. 11, on account 
of his thin legs." 

" There is IVIr. Brummell, sir," said I. 

" Yes, he'll come to us presently. That young 
man has certainly a future before him. Do you 
observe the way in which he looks round the 
room from under his drooping eyelids, as though 
it were a condescension that he should have 
entered it ? Small conceits are intolerable, but 
when they are pushed to the uttermost they be- 
come respectable. How do, George ? " 

" Have you heard about Vereker Merton ? " 
asked Brummell, strolUng up with one or two 
other exquisites at his heels. " He has run away 
with his father's woman-cook, and actually mar- 
ried her." 

" What did Lord Merton do ? " 

" He congratulated him warmly, and confessed 
that he had always underrated his intelligence. 
He is to live with the young couple, and make 
a handsome allowance on condition that the 
bride sticks to her old duties. By the way, there 
was a rumour that you were about to marry, 
Tregellis." 

" I think not," answered my uncle. " It would 
be a mistake to overwhelm one by attentions 
which are a pleasure to manyo" 

" My view, exactly, and very neatly expressed," 
cried Brummell. "Is it fair to break a dozen 

160 



WATIER'S 

hearts in order to intoxicate one with rapture ? 
I'm off to the Continent next week." 

" BaihfFs ? " asked one of his companions. 

" Too bad, Pierrepoint. No, no ; it is pleas- 
ure and instruction combined. Besides, it is 
necessary to go to Paris for your httle things, 
and if there is a chance of the war breaking 
out again, it would be well to lay in a sup- 

ply" 

" Quite right," said my uncle, who seemed to 
have made up his mind to outdo Brummell in 
extravagance. " I used to get my sulphur-col- 
oured gloves from the Palais Royal. When the 
war broke out in '93 I was cut off from them for 
nine years. Had it not been for a lugger which 
I specially hired to smuggle them, 1 might have 
been reduced to English tan." 

" The English are excellent at a flat-iron or a 
kitchen poker, but anything more delicate is be- 
yond them." 

" Our tailors are good," cried my uncle, " but 
our stuffs lack taste and variety. The war has 
made us more rococo than ever. It has cut us 
off from travel, and there is nothing to match 
travel for expanding the mind. Last year, for 
example, I came upon some new waistcoating 
in the Square of San JNIarco, at Venice. It was 
yellow, with the prettiest little twill of pink run- 
ning through it. How could I have seen it had 

161 



RODNEY STONE 

I not travelled ? I brought it back with me, and 
for a time it was all the rage." 

" The Prince took it up." 

" Yes, he usually follows my lead. We dressed 
so alike last year that we were frequently mis- 
taken for each other. It tells against me, but so 
it was. He often complains that things do not 
look as well upon him as upon me, but how can 
I make the obvious reply ? By the way, George, 
I did not see you at the Marchioness of Dover's 
ball." 

" Yes, I was there, and lingered for a quarter 
of an hour or so. I am surprised that you did 
not see me. I did not go past the doorway, 
however, for undue preference gives rise to jeal- 
ousy." 

" I went early," said my uncle, " for I had 
heard that there were to be some tolerable 
debutantes. It always pleases me vastly when I 
am able to pass a compliment to any of them. 
It has happened, but not often, for I keep to my 
own standard." 

So they talked, these singular men, and I, 
looking from one to the other, could not imagine 
how they could help bursting out a-laughing in 
each other's faces. But, on the contrary, their 
conversation was very grave, and filled out with 
many little bows, and opening and shutting of 
snuff-boxes, and flickings of laced handkerchiefs. 

162 



WATIER'S 

Quite a crowd had gathered silently around, and 
I could see that the talk had been regarded as a 
contest between two men who were looked upon 
as rival arbiters of fashion. It was finished by 
the Marquis of Queensberry passing his arm 
through Brummell's and leading him off, while 
my uncle threw out his laced cambric shirt-front 
and shot his ruffles as if he were well satisfied 
with his share in the encounter. It is seven-and- 
forty years since I looked upon that circle of 
dandies, and where, now, are their dainty little 
hats, their wonderful waistcoats, and their boots, 
in which one could arrange one's cravat ? They 
lived strange lives, these men, and they died 
strange deaths — some by their own hands, some 
as beggars, some in a debtor's gaol, some, like 
the most brilhant of them all, in a madhouse in 
a foreign land. 

" There is the card-room, Rodney," said my 
uncle, as we passed an open door on our way 
out. Glancing in, I saw a line of little green 
baize tables with small groups of men sitting 
round, while at one side was a longer one, from 
which there came a continuous murmur of voices. 
" You may lose what you like in there, save only 
your nerve or your temper," my uncle continued. 
" Ah, Sir Lothian, I trust that the luck was with 
you? 

A tall, thin man, with a hard, austere face, 

163 



RODNEY STONE 

had stepped out of the open doorway. His 
heavily thatched eyebrows covered quick, furtive 
grey eyes, and his gaunt features were hollowed 
at the cheek and temple like water-grooved flint. 
He was dressed entirely in black, and I noticed 
that his shoulders swayed a Uttle as if he had 
been drinking. 

*' Lost like the deuce," he snapped. 

" Dice ? " 

" No, whist." 

" You couldn't get very hard hit over that." 

" Couldn't you ? " he snarled. " Play a hun- 
dred a trick and a thousand on the rub, losing 
steadily for five hours, and see what you think of 
it." 

My uncle was evidently struck by the haggard 
look upon the other's face. 

*' I hope it's not very bad," he said. 

" Bad enough. It won't bear talking about. 
By the way, Tregellis, have you got your man 
for this fight yet ? " 

" No." 

" You seem to be hanging in the wind a long 
time. It's play or pay, you know. I shall 
claim forfeit if you don't come to scratch." 

"If you will name your day I shall produce 
my man. Sir Lothian," said my uncle, coldly. 

" This day four weeks, if you like." 

" Very good. The 18th of May." 

164 



WATIER'S 

" I hope to have changed my name by then ! " 

" How is that ? " asked my uncle, in surprise. 

" It is just possible that I may be Lord 
Avon." 

" What, you have had some news ? " cried my 
uncle, and I noticed a tremor in his voice. 

"I've had my agent over at Monte Video, and 
he believes he has proof that Avon died there. 
Anyhow, it is absurd to suppose that because a 
murderer chooses to fly from justice " 

" I won't have you use that word, Sir Lo- 
thian," cried my uncle, sharply. 

" You were there as I was. You know that 
he was a murderer." 

" I tell you that you shall not say so." 

Sir Lothian's fierce little grey eyes had to 
lower themselves before the imperious anger 
which shone in my uncle's. 

" Well, to let that point pass, it is monstrous 
to suppose that the title and the estates can 
remain hung up in this way for ever. I'm the 
heir, Tregellis, and I'm going to have my 
rights." 

" I am, as you are aware, Lord Avon's dearest 
friend," said my uncle, sternly. " His disappear- 
ance has not affected my love for him, and until 
his fate is finally ascertained, I shall exert myself 
to see that Ms rights also are respected." 

" His rights w^ould be a long drop and a 

165 



RODNEY STONE 

cracked spine," Sir Lothian answered, and then, 
changing his manner suddenly, he laid his hand 
upon my uncle's sleeve. 

" Come, come, Tregellis, I was his friend as 
well as you," said he. " But we cannot alter the 
facts, and it is rather late in the day for us to fall 
out over them. Your invitation holds good for 
Friday night ? " 

" Certainly." 

"I shaU bring Crab Wilson with me, and 
finally arrange the conditions of our little 
wager." 

"Very good, Sir Lothian! I shall hope to 
see you." 

They bowed, and my uncle stood a little time 
looking after him as he made his way amidst the 
crowd. 

"A good sportsman, nephew," said he. "A 
bold rider, the best pistol-shot in England, but 
... a dangerous man ! " 



166 



CHAPTER X 

THE MEN OF THE RING 

It was at the end of my first week in London 
that my uncle gave a supper to the fancy, as 
was usual for gentlemen of that time if they 
wished to figure before the public as Corinthians 
and patrons of sport. He had invited not only 
the chief fighting-men of the day, but also those 
men of fashion who were most interested in the 
ring : Mr. Fletcher Reid, Lord Say and Sele, Sir 
Lothian Hume, Sir John Lade, Colonel INIont- 
gomery. Sir Thomas Apreece, the Hon. Berke- 
ley Craven, and many more. The rumour that 
the Prince was to be present had already spread 
through the clubs, and invitations were eagerly 
sought after. 

The Waggon and Horses was a well-known 
sporting house, with an old prize-fighter for land- 
lord. And the arrangements were as primitive 
as the most Bohemian could wish. It was one 
of the many curious fashions which have now 
died out, that men who were blase from luxury 
and high living seemed to find a fresh piquancy 
in life by descending to the lowest resorts, so that 
the night-houses and gambling-dens in Covent 

167 



RODNEY STONE 

Garden or the Haymarket often gathered illus- 
trious company under their smoke - blackened 
ceilings. It was a change for them to turn their 
backs upon the cooking of Weltjie and of Ude, 
or the chambertin of old Q., and to dine upon 
a porter-house steak washed down by a pint of 
ale from a pewter pot. 

A rough crowd had assembled in the street to 
see the fighting-men go in, and my uncle warned 
me to look to my pockets as we pushed our way 
through it. Within was a large room with 
faded red curtains, a sanded floor, and walls 
which were covered with prints of pugilists and 
race-horses. Brown hquor-stained tables were 
dotted about in it, and round one of these half 
a dozen formidable-looking men were seated, 
while one, the roughest of all, was perched upon 
the table itself, swinging his legs to and fro. A 
tray of small glasses and pewter mugs stood 
beside them. 

" The boys were thirsty, sir, so I brought up 
some ale and some liptrap," whispered the land- 
lord ; " I thought you would have no objection, 
sir. 

" Quite right. Bob ! How are you all ? How 
are you, Maddox ? How are you, Baldwin ? 
Ah, Belcher, I am very glad to see you." 

The fighting-men rose and took their hats off, 

except the fellow on the table, who continued 

168 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

to swing his legs and to look my uncle very 
coolly in the face. 

" How are you, Berks ? " 

" Pretty tidy. 'Ow are you ? " 

*' Say ' sir ' when you speak to a genelman," 
said Belcher, and with a sudden tilt of the table 
he sent Berks flying almost into my uncle's arms. 

"See now, Jem, none o' that ! " said Berks, 
sulkily. 

" I'll learn you manners, Joe, which is more 
than ever your father did. You're not drinkin' 
black-jack in a boozin' ken, but you are meetin' 
noble, slap-up Corinthians, and it's for you to 
behave as such." 

" I've always been reckoned a genelman-like 
sort of man," said Berks, thickly, " but if so be 
as I've said or done what I 'adn't ought to " 

" There, there, Berks, that's all right ! " cried 
my uncle, only too anxious to smooth things 
over and to prevent a quarrel at the outset of 
the evening. " Here are some more of our 
friends. How are you, Apreece? How are 
you. Colonel ? Well, Jackson, you are looking 
vastly better. Good evening. Lade. I trust 
Lady Lade was none the worse for our pleasant 
drive. Ah, Mendoza, you look fit enough to 
throw your hat over the ropes this instant. Sir 
Lothian, I am glad to see you. You will find 
some old friends here." 

169 



RODNEY STONE 

Amid the stream of Corinthians and fighting- 
men who were thronging into the room I had 
caught a ghmpse of the sturdy figure and broad, 
good-humoured face of Champion Harrison. 
The sight of him was hke a whifF of South 
Down air coming into that low-roofed, oil-smell- 
ing room, and I ran forward to shake him by 
the hand. 

" Why, blaster Rodney — or I should say Mr. 
Stone, I suppose — ^you've changed out of aU 
knowledge. I can't hardly believe that it was 
really you that used to come down to blow the 
bellows when Boy Jim and I were at the anvil. 
Well, you are fine, to be sure ! " 

" What's the news of Friar's Oak ? " I asked 
eagerly. 

" Your father was down to chat with me, 
Master Rodney, and he tells me that the war is 
going to break out again, and that he hopes to 
see you here in London before many days are 
past ; for he is coming up to see Lord Nelson 
and to make inquiry about a ship. Your mother 
is well, and I saw her in church on Sunday." 

" And Boy Jim ? " 

Champion Harrison's good - humoured face 
clouded over. 

" He'd set his heart very much on comin' here 

to-night, but there were reasons why I didn't 

wish him to, and so there's a shadow betwixt us. 

170 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

It's the first that ever was, and I feel it, Master 
Rodney. Between ourselves, I have very good 
reason to wish him to stay with me, and I am 
sure that, with his high spirit and his ideas, he 
would never settle down again after once he had 
a taste o' London. I left him behind me with 
enough work to keep him busy until I get back 
to him." 

A tall and beautiftiUy proportioned man, very 
elegantly dressed, was strolling towards us. He 
stared in surprise and held out his hand to my 
companion. 

" Why, Jack Harrison ! " he cried. " This is 
a resurrection. Where in the world did you 
come from ? " 

" Glad to see you, Jackson," said my com- 
panion. " You look as well and as young as 
ever." 

" Thank you, yes. I resigned the belt when I 
could get no one to fight me for it, and I took to 
teaching." 

" I'm doing smith's work down Sussex way." 

" I've often wondered why you never had a 
shy at my belt. I tell you honestly, between 
man and man, I'm very glad you didn't." 

" Well, it's real good of you to say that, Jack- 
son. I might ha' done it, perhaps, but the old 
woman was against it. She's been a good wife 
to me and I can't go against her. But I feel a 

12 171 



RODNEY STONE 

bit lonesome here, for these boys are since my 
time." 

" You could do some of them over now," said 
Jackson, feeling my friend's upper arm. " No 
better bit of stuff was ever seen in a twenty-four 
foot ring. It would be a rare treat to see you 
take some of these young ones on. Won't you 
let me spring you on them ? " 

Harrison's eyes ghstened at the idea, but he 
shook his head. 

" It won't do, Jackson. My old woman holds 
my promise. That's Belcher, ain't it — the good- 
lookin' young chap with the flash coat ? " 

" Yes, that's Jem. You've not seen him ! 
He's a jewel." 

"So I've heard. Who's the youngster beside 
him ? He looks a tidy chap." 

"That's a new man from the West. Crab 
Wilson's his name." 

Harrison looked at him with interest. " I've 
heard of him," said he. " They are getting a 
match on for him, ain't they ? " 

" Yes. Sir Lothian Hume, the thin-faced gen- 
tleman over yonder, has backed him against Sir 
Charles Tregellis's man. We're to hear about 
the match to-night, I understand. Jem Belcher 
thinks great things of Crab Wilson. There's 
Belcher's young brother, Tom. He's looking 
out for a match, too. They say he's quicker 

172 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

than Jem with the mufflers, but he can't hit as 
hard. I was speaking of your brother, Jem." 

" The young 'un will make his way," said 
Belcher, who had come across to us. " He's 
more a sparrer than a fighter just at present, but 
when his gristle sets he'll take on anything on 
the list. Bristol's as full o' young fightin'-men 
now as a bin is of bottles. We've got two more 
comin' up — GuUy and Pearce — who'll make you 
London milling coves wish they was back in the 
west country again." 

" Here's the Prince," said Jackson, as a hum 
and bustle rose from the door. 

I saw George come bustling in, with a good- 
humoured smile upon his comely face. My un- 
cle welcomed him, and led some of the Corin- 
thians up to be presented. 

" We'll have trouble, gov'nor," said Belcher to 
Jackson. " Here's Joe Berks drinkin' gin out of 
a mug, and you know what a swine he is when 
he's drunk." 

" You must put a stopper on 'im, gov'nor," said 
several of the other prize-fighters. " 'E ain't what 
you'd caU a charmer when 'e's sober, but there's 
no standing 'im when 'e's fresh." 

Jackson, on account of his prowess and of the 
tact which he possessed, had been chosen as gen- 
eral regulator of the whole prize-fighting body, 
by whom he was usually aUuded to as the Com- 

173 



RODNEY STONE 

mander-in- Chief. He and Belcher went across 
now to the table upon which Berks was still 
perched. The ruffian's face was already flushed, 
and his eyes heavy and bloodshot. 

"You must keep yourself in hand to-night, 
Berks," said Jackson. "The Prince is here, 
and " 

" I never set eyes on 'im yet," cried Berks, 
lurching off the table. " Where is 'e, gov'nor ? 
Tell 'im Joe Berks would hke to do 'isself proud 
by shakin' 'im by the 'and." 

" No, you don't, Joe," said Jackson, laying his 
hand upon Berks's chest, as he tried to push his 
way through the crowd. " You've got to keep 
your place, Joe, or we'll put you where you can 
make all the noise you hke." 

" Where's that, gov'nor ? " 

" Into the street, through the window. We're 
going to have a peaceful evening, as Jem Belcher 
and I will show you if you get up to any of your 
Whitechapel games." 

"No 'arm, gov'nor," grumbled Berks. "I'm 
sure I've always 'ad the name of bein' a very 
genelman-like man." 

" So I've always said, Joe Berks, and mind 
you prove yourself such. But the supper is ready 
for us, and there's the Prince and Lord Sele 
going in. Two and two, lads, and don't forget 
whose company you are in." 

174 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

The supper was laid in a large room, with 
Union Jacks and mottoes hung thickly upon the 
walls. The tables were arranged in three sides 
of a square, my uncle occupying the centre of 
the principal one, with the Prince upon his right 
and Lord Sele upon his left. By his wise pre- 
caution the seats had been allotted beforehand, 
so that the gentlemen might be scattered among 
the professionals and no risk run of two enemies 
finding themselves together, or a man who had 
been recently beaten falling into the company of 
his conqueror. For my own part, I had Cham- 
pion Harrison upon one side of me and a stout, 
florid-faced man upon the other, who whispered 
to me that he was " Bill AVarr, landlord of the 
One Tun public-house, of Jermyn Street, and 
one of the gamest men upon the list." 

" It's my flesh that's beat me, sir," said he. 
" It creeps over me amazin' fast. I should fight 
at thirteen-eight, and 'ere I am nearly seventeen. 
It's the business that does it, what with lollin' 
about behind the bar all day, and bein' afraid to 
refuse a wet for fear of offendin' a customer. 
It's been the ruin of many a good fightin'-man 
before me." 

" You should take to my job," said Harrison. 
" I'm a smith by trade, and I've not put on half 
a stone in fifteen years." 

" Some take to one thing and some to another, 

175 



RODNEY STONE 

but the most of us try to 'ave a bar-parlour of 
our own. There's Will Wood, that I beat in 
forty rounds in the thick of a snow-storm down 
Navestock way, 'e drives a 'ackney. Young 
Firby, the ruffian, 'e's a waiter now. Dick 
'Umphries sells coals — 'e was always of a genel- 
manly disposition. George Ingleston is a brew- 
er's drayman. We all find our own cribs. But 
there's one thing you are saved by livin' in the 
country, and that is 'avin' the young Corinthians 
and bloods about town smackin' you eternally in 
the face." 

This was the last inconvenience which I should 
have expected a famous prize-fighter to be sub- 
jected to, but several bull-faced fellows at the 
other side of the table nodded their concurrence. 

*' You're right. Bill," said one of them. 
"There's no one has had more trouble with 
them than I have. In they come of an evenin' 
into my bar, with the wine in their heads. ' Are 
you Tom Owen the bruiser ? ' says one o' them. 
' At your service, sir,' says I. ' Take that, then,' 
says he, and it's a clip on the nose, or a back- 
handed slap across the chops as likely as not. 
Then they can brag all their lives that they had 
hit Tom Owen." 

" D'you draw their cork in return ? " asked 
Harrison. 

" I argey it out with them. I say to them, 

176 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

*Now, gents, fightin' is my profession, and I 
don't fight for love any more than a doctor doc- 
tors for love, or a butcher gives away a loin 
chop. Put up a small purse, master, and I'll 
do you over and proud. But don't expect that 
you're goin' to come here and get glutted by a 
middle-weight champion for nothing." 

" That's my way too, Tom," said my burly 
neighbour. "If they put down a guinea on the 
counter — which they do if they 'ave been drinkin' 
very 'eavy — I give them what I think is about a 
guinea's worth and take the money." 

" But if they don't ? " 

" Why, then, it's a common assault, d'ye see, 
against the body of 'is Majesty's liege, William 
Warr, and I 'as 'em before the beak next morn- 
in', and it's a week or twenty shillin's." 

Meanwhile the supper was in full swing — one 
of those solid and uncompromising meals which 
prevailed in the days of your grandfathers, and 
which may explain to some of you why you 
never set eyes upon that relative. 

Great rounds of beef, saddles of mutton, smok- 
ing tongues, veal and ham pies, turkeys and 
chickens, and geese, with every variety of vege- 
tables, and a succession of fiery cherries and 
heavy ales were the main staple of the feast. It 
was the same meal and the same cooking as 

their Norse or German ancestors might have sat 

177 



RODNEY STONE 

down to fourteen centuries before, and, indeed, 
as I looked through the steam of the dishes at 
the hnes of fierce and rugged faces, and the 
mighty shoulders which rounded themselves 
over the board, I could have imagined myself at 
one of those old-world carousals of which I had 
read, where the savage company gnawed the 
joints to the bone, and then, with murderous 
horse-play, hurled the remains at their prisoners. 
Here and there the pale, aquiline features of a 
sporting Corinthian recalled rather the Norman 
type, but in the main these stolid, heavy-jowled 
faces, belonging to men whose whole life was a 
battle, were the nearest suggestion which we 
have had in modern times of those fierce pirates 
and rovers from whose loins we have sprung. 

And yet, as I looked carefully from man to 
man in the line which faced me, 1 could see that 
the English, although they were ten to one, had 
not the game entirely to themselves, but that 
other races had shown that they could produce 
fighting-men worthy to rank with the best. 

There were, it is true, no finer or braver men 
in the room than Jackson and Jem Belcher, the 
one with his magnificent figure, his small waist 
and Herculean shoulders ; the other as graceful 
as an old Grecian statue, with a head whose 
beauty many a sculptor had wished to copy, and 
with those long, delicate lines in shoulder and 

178 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

loins and limbs, which gave him the litheness 
and activity of a panther. Already, as I looked 
at him, it seemed to me that there was a shadow 
of tragedy upon his face, a forecast of the day 
then but a few months distant when a blow from 
a racquet ball darkened the sight of one eye for 
ever. Had he stopped there, with his unbeaten 
career behind him, then indeed the evening of 
his life might have been as glorious as its dawn. 
But his proud heart could not permit his title to 
be torn from him without a struggle. If even 
now you can read how the gallant fellow, unable 
with his one eye to judge his distances, fought 
for thirty-five minutes against his young and for- 
midable opponent, and how, in the bitterness of 
defeat, he was heard only to express his sorrow 
for a friend who had backed him with all he pos- 
sessed, and if you are not touched by the story 
there must be something wanting in you which 
should go to the making of a man. 

But if there were no men at the tables who 
could have held their own against Jackson or 
Jem Belcher, there were others of a different 
race and type who had qualities which made 
them dangerous bruisers. A little way down 
the room I saw the black face and woolly head 
of Bill Richmond, in a purple-and-gold foot- 
man's livery — destined to be the predecessor of 

Molineaux, Sutton, and all that line of black 
«, 179 



RODNEY STONE 

boxers who have shown that the muscular power 
and insensibihty to pain which distinguish the 
African give him a pecuUar advantage in the 
sports of the ring. He could boast also of the 
higher honour of having been the first born 
American to win laurels in the British ring. 
There also I saw the keen features of Dan Men- 
doza, the Jew, just retired from active work, and 
leaving behind him a reputation for elegance and 
perfect science which has, to this day, never been 
exceeded. The worst fault that the critics could 
find with him was that there was a want of 
power in his blows — a remark which certainly 
could not have been made about his neighbour, 
whose long face, curved nose, and dark, flashing 
eyes proclaimed him as a member of the same 
ancient race. This was the formidable Dutch 
Sam, who fought at nine stone six, and yet pos- 
sessed such hitting powers, that his admirers, in 
after years, were willing to back him against the 
fourteen- stone Tom Cribb, if each were strapped 
a-straddle to a bench. Half a dozen other sallow 
Hebrew faces showed how energetically the Jews 
of Houndsditch and Whitechapel had taken to 
the sport of the land of their adoption, and that 
in this, as in more serious fields of human effort, 
they could hold their own with the best. 

It was my neighbour Warr who very good- 

humouredly pointed out to me all these celebri- 

180 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

ties, the echoes of whose fame had been wafted 
down even to our httle Sussex village. 

" There's Andrew Gamble, the Irish cham- 
pion," said he. "It was e that beat Noah James, 
the Guardsman, and was afterwards nearly killed 
by Jem Belcher, in the 'ollow of Wimbledon 
Common by Abbershaw's gibbet. The two that 
are next 'im are Irish also, Jack O'Donnell and 
Bill Ryan. When you get a good Irishman you 
can't better 'em, but they're dreadful 'asty. That 
little cove with the leery face is Caleb Baldwin 
the Coster, 'im that they call the Pride of West- 
minster. 'E's but five foot seven, and nine stone 
five, but 'e's got the 'cart of a giant. 'E's never 
been beat, and there ain't a man within a stone 
of 'im that could beat 'im, except only Dutch 
Sam. There's George Maddox, too, another o' 
the same breed, and as good a man as ever pulled 
his coat off. The genelmanly man that eats with 
a fork, 'im what looks like a Corinthian, only that 
the bridge of 'is nose ain't quite as it ought to be, 
that's Dick 'Umphries, the same that was cock 
of the middle-weights until Mendoza cut his 
comb for 'im. You see the other with the grey 
'ead and the scars on his face ? " 

" Why, it's old Tom Faulkner the cricketer ! " 
cried Harrison, following the line of Bill Warr's 
stubby forefinger. " He's the fastest bowler in 
the Midlands, and at his best there weren't many 

181 



RODNEY STONE 

boxers in England that could stand up against 
him." 

" You're right there, Jack 'Arrison. 'E was 
one of the three who came up to fight when the 
best men of Birmingham challenged the best 
men of London. 'E's an evergreen, is Tom. 
Why, he was turned five-and-fifty when he chal- 
lenged and beat, after fifty minutes of it, Jack 
Thornhill, who was tough enough to take it out 
of many a youngster. It's better to give odds 
in weight than in years." 

" Youth will be served," said a crooning voice 
from the other side of the table. " Ay, masters, 
youth will be served." 

The man who had spoken was the most extra- 
ordinary of all the many curious figures in the 
room. He was very, very old, so old that he 
was past all comparison, and no one by looking 
at his mummy skin and fish-like eyes could give 
a guess at his years. A few scanty grey hairs 
still hung about his yellow scalp. As to his feat- 
ures, they were scarcely human in their disfigure- 
ment, for the deep wrinkles and pouchings of 
extreme age had been added to a face which 
had always been grotesquely ugly, and had been 
crushed and smashed in addition by many a 
blow. I had noticed this creature at the begin- 
ning of the meal, leaning his chest against the 
edge of the table as if its support was a welcome 

182 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

one, and feebly picking at the food which was 
placed before him. Gradually, however, as his 
neighbours plied him with drink, his shoulders 
grew squarer, his back stiffened, his eyes bright- 
ened, and he looked about him, with an air of 
surprise at first, as if he had no clear recollection 
of how he came there, and afterwards with an 
expression of deepening interest, as he listened, 
with his ear scooped up in his hand, to the con- 
versation around him. 

" That's old Buckhorse," whispered Champion 
Harrison. " He was just the same as that when 
I joined the ring twenty years ago. Time was 
when he was the terror of London." 

" 'E was so," said Bill ^^"arr. " 'E would fight 
like a stag, and 'e was that ard that 'e would let 
any swell knock 'im down for alf-a-crown. 'E 
'ad no face to spoil, d'ye see, for 'e was always 
the ugliest man in England. But 'e's been on 
the shelf now for near sixty years, and it cost 'im 
many a beatin' before 'e could understand that 
'is strength was slippin' away from 'im." 

" Youth will be served, masters," droned the 
old man, shaking his head miserably. 

" Fill up 'is glass," said Warr. " 'Ere Tom, 
give old Buckhorse a sup o' liptrap. Warm his 
'eart for 'im." 

The old man poured a glass of neat gin down 
his shrivelled throat, and the effect upon him was 

183 



RODNEY STONE 

extraordinary. A light glimmered in each of his 
dull eyes, a tinge of colour came into his wax- 
like cheeks, and, opening his toothless mouth, he 
suddenly emitted a peculiar, bell-like, and most 
musical cry. A hoarse roar of laughter from 
all the company answered it, and flushed faces 
craned over each other to catch a glimpse of the 
veteran. 

" There's Buckhorse !" they cried. " Buckhorse 
is comin' round again." 

*' You can laugh if you vill, masters," he cried, 
in his Lewkner Lane dialect, holding up his two 
thin, vein-covered hands. " It von't be long 
that you'll be able to see my crooks vich 'ave 
been on Figg's conk, and on Jack Broughton's, 
and on 'Arry Gray's, and many another good 
fightin' man that was millin' for a livin' before 
your fathers could eat pap." 

The company laughed again, and encouraged 
the old man by half-derisive and half-affectionate 
cries. 

" Let 'em 'ave it, Buckhorse ! Give it 'em 
straight ! Tell us how the millin' coves did it in 
your time." 

The old gladiator looked round him in great 
contempt. 

" Vy, from vot I see," he cried, in his high, 
broken treble, " there's some on you that ain't 
fit to flick a fly from a joint o' meat. You'd 

184 



THE JNIEN OF THE RING 

make werry good ladies' maids, the most of you, 
but you took the wrong turnin' ven you came 
into the ring." 

" Give 'im a wipe over the mouth," said a 
hoarse voice. 

"Joe Berks," said Jackson, "I'd save the 
hangman the job of breaking your neck if His 
Royal Highness wasn't in the room." 

" That's as it may be, guv'nor," said the half- 
drunken ruffian, staggering to his feet. " If I've 
said anything wot isn't genelmanlike " 

" Sit down, Berks ! " cried my uncle, with 
such a tone of command that the fellow col- 
lapsed into his chair. 

" Vy, vitch of you would look Tom Slack in 
the face ? " piped the old fellow ; "or Jack 
Broughton? — him vot told the old Dook of 
Cumberland that all he vanted vas to fight the 
King o' Proosia's guard, day by day, year in, 
year out, until 'e 'ad worked out the whole regi- 
ment of 'em — and the smallest of 'em six foot 
long. There's not more'n a few of you could 'it 
a dint in a pat o' butter, and if you gets a smack 
or two it's all over vith you. Vich among you 
could get up again after such a vipe as the Ey- 
talian Gondoleery cove gave to Bob Vittaker ? " 

" What was that, Buckhorse ? " cried several 
voices. 

" 'E came over 'ere from voreign parts, and 'e 

185 



RODNEY STONE 

was so broad 'e 'ad to come edgewise through 
the doors. 'E 'ad so, upon my davy ! 'E was 
that strong that wherever 'e 'it the bone had got 
to go ; and when 'e'd cracked a jaw or two it 
looked as though nothing in the country could 
stan' against him. So the King 'e sent one of 
his genelmen down to Figg and he said to him : 
* 'Ere's a cove vot cracks a bone every time 'e 
lets vly, and it'll be little credit to the Lunnon 
boys if they let's 'im get avay vithout a vack- 
ing.' So Figg he ups, and he says, ' I do not 
know, master, but he may break one of 'is coun- 
trymen's jawbones vid 'is vist, but I'll bring 'im 
a Cockney lad and 'e shall not be able to break 
'is jawbone with a sledge 'ammer.' I was with 
Figg in Slaughter's cofFee-'ouse, as then vas, ven 
'e says this to the King's genelman, and I goes 
so, I does ! " Again he emitted the curious bell- 
like cry, and again the Corinthians and the fight- 
ing-men laughed and applauded him. 

" His Royal Highness— that is, the Earl of 
Chester — would be glad to liear the end of your 
story, Buckhorse," said my uncle, to whom the 
Prince had been whispering. 

" Veil, your R'yal 'Ighness, it vas like this. 
Ven the day came round, all the volk came to 
Figg's Amphitheatre, the same that vos in Tot- 
tenham Court, an' Bob Vittaker 'e vos there, 

and the Eytahan Gondoleery cove 'e vas there, 

186 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

and all the purlitest, genteelest crowd that ever 
vos, twenty thousand of 'em, all sittin' with their 
'eads like purtaties on a barrer, banked right up 
round the stage, and me there to pick up Bob, 
d'ye see, and Jack Figg 'imself just for fair play 
to do vot was right by the cove from voreign 
parts. They vas packed all round, the folks 
was, but down through the middle of 'em was a 
passage just so as the gentry could come through 
to their seats, and the stage it vas of wood, as 
the custom then vas, and a man's 'eight above 
the 'eads of the people. Veil, then, ven Bob was 
put up opposite this great Eytalian man I says 
' Slap 'im in the vind. Bob,' 'cos I could see vid 
'alf an eye that he vas as puffy as a cheesecake ; 
so Bob he goes in, and as he comes the vorriner 
let 'im 'ave it amazin' on the conk. I 'eard the 
thump of it, and I kind o' velt somethin' vistle 
past me, but ven I looked there vas the Eytal- 
ian a feelin' of 'is muscles in the middle o' the 
stage, and as to Bob, there vern't no sign' of 'im 
at all no more'n if 'e'd never been." 

His audience was riveted by the old prize- 
fighter's story. " Well," cried a dozen voices, 
" what then, Buckhorse : 'ad 'e swallowed 'im, 
or what ? " 

" Veil, boys, that vas vat / wondered, when 
sudden I seed two legs a-stickin' up out o' the 
crowd a long vay off, just like these two vingers, 

13 187 



RODNEY STONE 

d'ye see, and I knewed they vas Bob's legs, see- 
in' that 'e 'ad kind o' yellow small clothes vid 
blue ribbons — vich blue vas 'is colour — at the 
knee. So they up-ended 'im, they did, an' they 
made a lane for 'im an' cheered 'im to give 'im 
'eart, though 'e never lacked for that. At virst 
'e vas that dazed that 'e didn't know if 'e vas in 
church or in 'Orsemonger Gaol ; but ven I'd bit 
'is two ears 'e shook 'isself together. ' Ve'll try 
it again, Buck,' says 'e. ' The mark ! ' says I. 
And 'e vinked all that vas left o' one eye. So 
the Eytalian 'e lets swing again, but Bob 'e 
jumps inside an' 'e lets 'im 'ave it plumb square 
on the meat safe as 'ard as ever the Lord would 
let 'im put it in." 

" Well ? WeU ? " 

" Veil, the Eytalian 'e got a touch of the gur- 
gles, an' 'e shut 'imself right up like a two-foot 
rule. Then 'e pulled 'imself straight, an' 'e gave 
the most awful Glory Allelujah screech as ever 
you 'card. Off 'e jumps from the stage an' down 
the passage as 'ard as 'is 'oofs would carry 'im. 
Up jumps the 'ole crowd, and after 'im as 'ard 
as they could move for laughin'. They vas lyin' 
in the kennel three deep all down Tottenham 
Court Road wid their 'ands to their sides just vit 
to break themselves in two. Veil, ve chased 'im 
down 'Olburn, an' down Fleet Street, an' down 

Cheapside, an' past the 'Change, and on all the 

188 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

vay to Voppin', an' we only catched 'im in the 
shippin' office, vere 'e vas askin' 'ow soon 'e could 
get a passage to voreign parts." 

There was much laughter and clapping of 
glasses upon the table at the conclusion of old 
Buckhorse's story, and I saw the Prince of Wales 
hand something to the waiter, who brought it 
round and slipped it into the skinny hand of the 
veteran, who spat upon it before thrusting it 
into his pocket. The table had in the mean- 
while been cleared, and was now studded with 
bottles and glasses, while long clay pipes and 
tobacco-boxes were handed round. INly uncle 
never smoked, thinking that the habit might 
darken his teeth, but many of the Corinthians, 
and the Prince amongst the first of them, set 
the example of lighting up. All restraint had 
been done away with, and the prize-fighters, 
flushed with wine, roared across the tables to 
each other, or shouted their greetings to friends 
at the other end of the room. The amateurs, 
falling into the humour of their company, were 
hardly less noisy, and loudly debated the merits 
of the different men, criticizing their styles of 
fighting before their faces, and making bets upon 
the results of future matches. 

In the midst of the uproar there was an im- 
perative rap upon the table, and my uncle rose 
to speak. As he stood with his pale, calm face 

189 



RODNEY STONE 

and fine figure, I had never seen him to greater 
advantage, for he seemed, with all his elegance, 
to have a quiet air of domination amongst these 
fierce fellows, like a huntsman walking careless- 
ly through a springing and yapping pack. He 
expressed his pleasure at seeing so many good 
sportsmen under one roof, and acknowledged the 
honour which had been done both to his guests 
and himself by the presence there that night of 
the illustrious personage whom he should refer 
to as the Earl of Chester. He was sorry that 
the season prevented him from placing game 
upon the table, but there was so much sitting 
round it that it would perhaps be hardly missed 
(cheers and laughter). The sports of the ring 
had, in his opinion, tended to that contempt of 
pain and of danger which had contributed so 
much in the past to the safety of the country, 
and which might, if what he heard was true, be 
very quickly needed once more. If an enemy 
landed upon our shores it was then that, with 
Our small army, we should be forced to fall back 
upon native valour trained into hardihood by the 
practice and contemplation of manly sports. In 
time of peace also the rules of the ring had been 
of service in enforcing the principles of fair play, 
and in turning public opinion against that use of 
the knife or of the boot which was so common in 
foreign countries. He begged, therefore, to drink 

190 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

" Success to the Fancy," coupled with the name 
of John Jackson, who might stand as a type of 
all that was most admirable in British boxing. 

Jackson having replied with a readiness which 
many a public man might have envied, my uncle 
rose once more. 

" We are here to-night," said he, " not only to 
celebrate the past glories of the prize ring, but 
also to arrange some sport for the future. It 
should be easy, now that backers and fighting- 
men are gathered together under one roof, to 
come to terms with each other. I have myself 
set an example by making a match with Sir 
Lothian Hume, the terms of which will be com- 
municated to you by that gentleman." 

Sir Lothian rose with a paper in his hand. 

" The terms, your Royal Highness and gen- 
tlemen, are briefly these," said he. " JNIy man. 
Crab Wilson, of Gloucester, having never yet 
fought a prize battle, is prepared to meet, upon 
May 18th of this year, any man of any weight 
who may be selected by Sir Charles Tregellis. 
Sir Charles Tregellis's selection is limited to men 
below twenty or above thirty-five years of age, 
so as to exclude Belcher and the other candidates 
for championship honours. The stakes are two 
thousand pounds against a thousand, two hun- 
dred to be paid by the winner to his man ; play 
or pay." 

191 



RODNEY STONE 

It was curious to see the intense gravity of 
them all, fighters and backers, as they bent their 
brows and weighed the conditions of the match. 

" I am informed," said Sir John Lade, " that 
Crab Wilson's age is twenty-three, and that, al- 
though he has never fought a regular P.R. battle, 
he has none the less fought within ropes for a 
stake on many occasions." 

" I 've seen him half a dozen times at the 
least," said Belcher. 

" It is precisely for that reason. Sir John, that 
I am laying odds of two to one in his favour." 

" May I ask," said the Prince, " what the 
exact height and weight of Wilson may be ? " 

" Five foot eleven and thirteen- ten, your Royal 
Highness." 

" Long enough and heavy enough for any- 
thing on two legs," said Jackson, and the profes- 
sionals all murmured their assent. 

" Read the rules of the fight. Sir Lothian." 

" The battle to take place on Tuesday, May 

the 18th, at the hour of ten in the morning, at a 

spot to be afterwards named. The ring to be 

twenty foot square. Neither to fall without a 

knock-down blow, subject to the decision of the 

umpires. Three umpires to be chosen upon the 

ground, namely, two in ordinary and one in 

reference. Does that meet your wishes, Sir 

Charles ? " 

192 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

My uncle bowed. 

" Have you anything to say, Wilson ? " 

The young pugilist, who had a curious, lanky 
figure, and a craggy, bony face, passed his fin- 
gers through his close-cropped hair. 

"If you please, zir," said he, with a slight west- 
country burr, " a twenty- voot ring is too small 
for a thirteen-stone man." 

There was another murmur of professional 
agreement. 

" What would you have it, Wilson ? " 

" Vour-an'-twenty, Sir Lothian." 

*' Have you any objection. Sir Charles ? " 

" Not the slightest." 

" Anything else, Wilson ? " 

" If you please, zir, I'd like to know whom I'm 
vighting with." 

" I understand that you have not publicly 
nominated your man, Sir Charles ? " 

" I do not intend to do so until the very morn- 
ing of the fight. I believe I have that right 
within the terms of our wager." 

" Certainly, if you choose to exercise it." 

"I do so intend. And I should be vastly 
pleased if Mr. Berkeley Craven will consent to 
be stake-holder." 

That gentleman having willingly given his 
consent, the final formalities which led up to 
these humble tournaments were concluded. 

193 



RODNEY STONE 

And then, as these full-blooded, powerful men 
became heated with their wine, angry eyes began 
to glare across the table, and amid the grey 
swirls of tobacco-smoke the lamp-light gleamed 
upon the fierce, hawk-like Jews, and the flushed, 
savage Saxons. The old quarrel as to whether 
Jackson had or had not committed a foul by 
seizing Mendoza by the hair on the occasion of 
their battle at Hornchurch, eight years before, 
came to the front once more. Dutch Sam 
hurled a shilling down upon the table, and of- 
fered to fight the Pride of Westminster for it if 
he ventured to say that Mendoza had been fairly 
beaten. Joe Berks, who had grown noisier and 
more quarrelsome as the evening went on, tried 
to clamber across the table, with horrible blas- 
phemies, to come to blows with an old Jew 
named Fighting Yussef, who had plunged into 
the discussion. It needed very little more to 
finish the supper by a general and ferocious 
battle, and it was only the exertions of Jackson, 
Belcher, Harrison, and others of the cooler and 
steadier men, which saved us from a riot. 

And then, when at last this question was set 
aside, that of the rival claims to championships 
at different weights came on in its stead, and 
again angry words flew about and challenges 
were in the air. There was no exact limit be- 
tween the light, middle, and heavy-weights, and 

194 



THE MEN OF THE RING 

yet it would make a very great difference to the 
standing of a boxer whether he should be re- 
garded as the heaviest of the light-weights, or 
the lightest of the heavy-weights. One claimed 
to be ten-stone champion, another was ready to 
take on anything at eleven, but would not run 
to twelve, which would have brought the invin- 
cible Jem Belcher down upon him. Faulkner 
claimed to be champion of the seniors, and even 
old Buckhorse's curious call rang out above the 
tumult as he turned the whole company to 
laughter and good humour again by challenging 
anjrthing over eighty and under seven stone. 

But in spite of gleams of sunshine, there was 
thunder in the air, and Champion Harrison had 
just whispered in my ear that he was quite sure 
that we should never get through the night 
without trouble, and was advising me, if it got 
very bad, to take refuge under the table, when 
the landlord entered the room hurriedly and 
handed a note to my uncle. 

He read it, and then passed it to the Prince, 
who returned it with raised eyebrows and a 
gesture of surprise. Then my uncle rose with 
the scrap of paper in his hand and a smile upon 
his hps. 

" Gentlemen," said he, " there is a stranger 
waiting below who desires a fight to a finish 
with the best man in the room." 

195 



CHAPTER XI 
THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

The curt announcement was followed by a mo- 
ment of silent surprise, and then by a general 
shout of laughter. There might be argument as 
to who was champion at each weight ; but there 
could be no question that all the champions of 
all the weights were seated round the tables. 
An audacious challenge which embraced them 
one and all, without regard to size or age, could 
hardly be regarded otherwise than as a joke — 
but it was a joke which might be a dear one for 
the joker. 

" Is this genuine ? " asked my uncle. 

*' Yes, Sir Charles," answered the landlord ; 
" the man is waiting below." 

" It's a kid ! " cried several of the fighting-men. 
" Some cove is a gammonin' us." 

" Don't you believe it," answered the landlord. 
" He's a real slap-up Corinthian, by his dress ; 
and he means what he says, or else I ain't no 
judge of a man." 

My uncle whispered for a few moments with 
the Prince of Wales. " Well, gentlemen," said 
he, at last, " the night is still young, and if any 

196 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

of you should wish to show the company a little 
of your skill, you could not ask a better oppor- 
tunity." 

" What weight is he, Bill ? " asked Jem 
Belcher. 

"He's close on six foot, and I should put him 
well into the thirteen stones when he's buffed." 

" Heavy metal ! " cried Jackson. " Who takes 
him on ? " 

They all wanted to, from nine-stone Dutch 
Sam upwards. The air was filled with their 
hoarse shouts and their arguments why each 
should be the chosen one. To fight when they 
were flushed with wine and ripe for mischief — 
above all, to fight before so select a company 
with the Prince at the ringside, was a chance 
which did not often come in their way. Only 
Jackson, Belcher, Mendoza, and one or two 
others of the senior and more famous men re- 
mained silent, thinking it beneath their dignity 
that they should condescend to so irregular a 
bye-battle. 

" Well, you can't all fight him," remarked 
Jackson, when the babel had died away, " It's 
for the chairman to choose." 

" Perhaps your Royal Highness has a prefer- 
ence," said my uncle. 

" By Jove, I'd take him on myself if my posi- 
tion was different," said the Prince, whose face 

197 



RODNEY STONE 

was growing redder and his eyes more glazed. 
" You've seen me with the mufflers, Jackson ! 
You know my form ! " 

" I've seen your Royal Highness, and I have 
felt your Royal Highness," said the courtly 
Jackson. 

" Perhaps Jem Belcher would give us an ex- 
hibition," said my uncle. 

Belcher smiled and shook his handsome head. 

" There's my brother Tom here has never been 
blooded in London yet, sir. He might make a 
fairer match of it." 

" Give him over to me ! " roared Joe Berks. 
" I've been waitin' for a turn all evenin', an' I'll 
fight any man that tries to take my place. 'E's 
my meat, my masters. Leave 'im to me if you 
want to see 'ow a calf's 'ead should be dressed. 
If you put Tom Belcher before me I'll fight Tom 
Belcher, an' for that matter I'll fight Jem 
Belcher, or Bill Belcher, or any other Belcher 
that ever came out of Bristol." 

It was clear that Berks had got to the stage 
when he must fight some one. His heavy face 
was gorged and the veins stood out on his low 
forehead, while his fierce grey eyes looked vi- 
ciously from man to man in quest of a quarrel. 
His great red hands were bunched into huge, 
gnarled fists, and he shook one of them menac- 
ingly as his drunken gaze swept round the tables. 

198 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

" I think you'll agree with me, gentlemen, that 
Joe Berks would be all the better for some fresh 
air and exercise," said my uncle. " With the 
concurrence of His Royal Highness and of the 
company, I shall select him as our champion on 
this occasion." 

" You do me proud," cried the fellow, stagger- 
ing to his feet and pulling at his coat. " If I 
don't glut him within the five minutes, may I 
never see Shropshire again." 

"Wait a bit, Berks," cried several of the 
amateurs. " Where's it going to be held ? " 

" Where you hke, masters. I'll fight him in a 
sawpit, or on the outside of a coach if it please 

you. Put us toe to toe, and leave the rest with 

i? 

me. 

" They can't fight here with all this fitter," said 
my uncle. " AVhere shall it be ? " 

" 'Pon my soul, Tregellis," cried the Prince, 
" I think our unknown friend might have a word 
to say upon that matter. He'll be vastly ill- 
used if you don't let him have his own choice of 
conditions." 

"You are right, sir. We must have him up." 

" That's easy enough," said the landlord, " for 
here he comes through the doorway." 

I glanced round and had a side view of a tall 
and well-dressed young man in a long, brown 
travelling coat and a black felt hat. The next 

199 



RODNEY STONE 

instant he had turned and I had clutched with 
both my hands on to Champion Harrison's arm. 

" Harrison i " I gasped. " It's Boy Jim ! " 

And yet somehow the possibiHty and even the 
probabihty of it had occurred to me from the be- 
ginning, and I beheve that it had to Harrison 
also, for I had noticed that his face grew grave 
and troubled from the very moment that there 
was talk of the stranger below. Now, the in- 
stant that the buzz of surprise and admiration 
caused by Jim's face and figure had died away, 
Harrison was on his feet, gesticulating in his ex- 
citement. 

" It's my nephew Jim, gentlemen," he cried. 
*• He's not twenty yet, and it's no doing of mine 
that he should be here." 

" Let him alone, Harrison," cried Jackson. 
** He's big enough to take care of himself." 

" This matter has gone rather far," said my 
uncle. " I think, Harrison, that you are too 
good a sportsman to prevent your nephew from 
showing whether he takes after his uncle." 

" It's very different from me," cried Harrison, 
in great distress. " But I'll tell you what I'll do, 
gentlemen. I never thought to stand up in a 
ring again, but I'll take on Joe Berks with pleas- 
ure, just to give a bit o' sport to this company." 

Boy Jim stepped across and laid his hand upon 

the prize-fighter's shoulder. 

200 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

" It must be so, uncle," I heard him whisper. 
" I am sorry to go against your wishes, but I 
have made up my mind, and I must carry it 
through." 

Harrison shrugged his huge shoulders. 

*' Jim, Jim, you don't know what you are do- 
ing ! But I've heard you speak like that before, 
boy, and I know that it ends in your getting 
your way." 

" I trust, Harrison, that your opposition is 
withdrawn? " said my uncle. 

" Can 1 not take his place ? " 

"You would not have it said that I gave a 
challenge and let another carry it out ? " whis- 
pered Jim. " This is my one chance. For 
Heaven's sake don't stand in my way." 

The smith's broad and usually stolid face was 
all working with his conflicting emotions. At 
last he banged his fist down upon the table. 

" It's no fault of mine ! " he cried. " It was to 
be and it is. Jim, boy, for the Lord's sake re- 
member your distances, and stick to out-fightin' 
with a man that could give you a stone." 

" I was sure that Harrison would not stand in 
the way of sport," said my uncle. " We are glad 
that you have stepped up, that we might consult 
you as to the arrangements for giving effect to 
your very sporting challenge." 

" Whom am I to fight?" asked Jim, looking 

201 



RODNEY STONE 

round at the company, who were now all upon 
their feet. 

" Young man, you'll know enough of who you 
'ave to fight before you are through with it," 
cried Berks, lurching heavily through the crowd. 
" You'll need a friend to swear to you before I've 
finished, d'ye see ? " 

Jim looked at him with disgust in every line of 
his face. 

" Surely you are not going to set me to fight 
a drunken man ! " said he. " Where is Jem 
Belcher ? " 

" My name, young man." 

" I should be glad to try you, if I may." 

" You must work up to me, my lad. You 
don't take a ladder at one jump, but you do it 
rung by rung. Show yourself to be a match for 
me, and I'll give you a turn." 

" I'm much obliged to you." 

"And I like the look of you, and wish you 
well," said Belcher, holding out his hand. They 
were not unlike each other, either in face or fig- 
ure, though the Bristol man was a few years the 
older, and a murmur of critical admiration was 
heard as the two tall, lithe figures, and keen, 
clean-cut faces were contrasted. 

" Have you any choice where the fight takes 
place ? " asked my uncle. 

" I am in your hands, sir," said Jim. 

202 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

"Why not go round to the Five's Court?" 
suggested Sir John Lade. 

" Yes, let us go to the Five's Court." 

But this did not at all suit the views of the 
landlord, who saw in this lucky incident a chance 
of reaping a fresh harvest from his spendthrift 
company. 

" If it please you," he cried, " there is no need 
to go so far. My coach-house at the back of the 
yard is empty, and a better place for a mill you'll 
never find." 

There was a general shout in favour of the 
coach-house, and those who were nearest the 
door began to slip through, in the hope of secur- 
ing the best places. My stout neighbour, Bill 
Warr, pulled Harrison to one side. 

" I'd stop it if I were you," he whispered. 

" I would if I could. It's no wish of mine 
that he should fight. But there's no turning 
him when once his mind is made up." All his 
own fights put together had never reduced the 
pugiUst to such a state of agitation. 

" Wait on 'im yourself, then, and chuck up the 
sponge when things begin to go wrong. You 
know Joe Berks's record ? " 

" He's since my time." 

"Well, 'e's a terror, that's all. It's only 
Belcher that can master 'im. You see the man 
for yourself, six foot, fourteen stone, and full of 

14 203 



RODNEY STONE 

the devil. Belcher's beat 'im twice, but the sec- 
ond time 'e 'ad all 'is work to do it." 

" Well, well, we've got to go through with it. 
You've not seen Boy Jim put his mawleys up, 
or maybe you'd think better of his chances. 
When he was short of sixteen he licked the Cock 
of the South Downs, and he's come on a long 
way since then." 

The company was swarming through the door 
and clattering down the stair, so we followed in 
the stream. A fine rain was falling, and the yel- 
low lights from the windows glistened upon the 
wet cobblestones of the yard. How welcome 
was that breath of sweet, damp air after the 
fetid atmosphere of the supper-room. At the 
other end of the yard was an open door sharply 
outlined by the gleam of lanterns within, and 
through this they poured, amateurs and fighting- 
men jostling each other in their eagerness to get 
to the front. For my own part, being a smaUish 
man, I should have seen nothing had I not found 
an upturned bucket in a corner, upon which I 
perched myself with the wall at my back. 

It was a large room with a wooden floor and 

an open square in the ceiling, which was fringed 

with the heads of the ostlers and stable boys who 

were looking down from the harness-room above. 

A carriage-lamp was slung in each corner, and a 

very large stable-lantern hung from a rafter in 

204 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

the centre. A coil of rope had been brought in, 
and under the direction of Jackson four men had 
been stationed to hold it. 

" What space do you give them ? " asked my 
uncle. 

" Twenty-four, as they are both big ones, sir." 

" Very good, and half-minutes between rounds, 
I suppose ? I'll umpire if Sir Lothian Hume 
will do the same, and you can hold the watch 
and referee, Jackson." 

With great speed and exactness every prepara- 
tion was rapidly made by these experienced men. 
Mendoza and Dutch Sam were commissioned to 
attend to Berks, while Belcher and Jack Harrison 
did the same for Boy Jim. Sponges, towels, and 
some brandy in a bladder were passed over the 
heads of the crowd for the use of the seconds. 

" Here's our man," cried Belcher. " Come 
along, Berks, or we'll go to fetch you." 

Jim appeared in the ring stripped to the waist, 
with a coloured handkerchief tied round his 
middle. A shout of admiration came from the 
spectators as they looked upon the fine lines of 
his figure, and I found myself roaring with the 
rest. His shoulders were sloping rather than 
bulky, and his chest was deep rather than broad, 
but the muscle was all in the right place, rippling 
down in long, low curves from neck to shoulder, 
and from shoulder to elbow. His work at the 

205 



RODNEY STONE 

anvil had developed his arms to their utmost, 
and his healthy country living gave a sleek gloss 
to his ivory skin, which shone in the lamplight. 
His expression was full of spirit and confidence, 
and he wore a grim sort of half-smile which I 
had seen many a time in our boyhood, and which 
meant, I knew, that his pride had set iron hard, 
and that his senses would fail him long before 
his courage. 

Joe Berks in the meanwhile had swaggered in 
and stood with folded arms between his seconds 
in the opposite corner. His face had none of the 
eager alertness of his opponent, and his skin, of a 
dead white, with heavy folds about the chest and 
ribs, showed, even to my inexperienced eyes, that 
he was not a man who should fight without train- 
ing. A life of toping and ease had left him 
flabby and gross. On the other hand, he was 
famous for his mettle and for his hitting power, 
so that, even in the face of the advantages of 
youth and condition, the betting was three to 
one in his favour. His heavy-jowled, clean- 
shaven face expressed ferocity as well as courage, 
and he stood with his small, blood-shot eyes fixed 
viciously upon Jim, and his lumpy shoulders 
stooping a little forwards, hke a fierce hound 
straining on a leash. 

The hubbub of the betting had risen until it 
drowned all other sounds, men shouting their 

206 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

opinions from one side of the coach-house to the 
other, and waving their hands to attract atten- 
tion, or as a sign that they had accepted a wager. 
Sir John Lade, standing just in front of me, was 
roaring out the odds against Jim, and laying 
them freely with those who fancied the appear- 
ance of the unknown. 

" I've seen Berks fight," said he to the Honour- 
able Berkeley Craven. " No country hawbuck is 
going to knock out a man with such a record." 

" He may be a country hawbuck," the other 
answered, " but I have been reckoned a judge of 
anything either on two legs or four, and I tell 
you. Sir John, that I never saw a man who 
looked better bred in my life. Are you still 
laying against him ? " 

" Three to one." 

" Have you once in hundreds." 

" Very good. Craven ! There they go ! Berks ! 
Berks ! Bravo ! Berks ! Bravo ! I think, Craven, 
that I shall trouble you for that hundred." 

The two men had stood up to each other, Jim 
as hght upon his feet as a goat, with his left well 
out and his right thrown across the lower part 
of his chest, while Berks held both arms half 
extended and his feet almost level, so that he 
might lead off with either side. For an instant 
they looked each other over, and then Berks, 
ducking his head and rushing in with a hand- 

207 



RODNEY STONE 

over-hand style of hitting, bored Jim down into 
his corner. It was a backward slip rather than 
a knockdown, but a thin trickle of blood was 
seen at the corner of Jim's mouth. In an instant 
the seconds had seized their men and carried 
them back into their corners. 

" Do you mind doubUng our bet ? " said 
Berkeley Craven, who was craning his neck to 
get a glimpse of Jim. 

" Four to one on Berks ! Four to one on 
Berks ! " cried the ringsiders. 

" The odds have gone up, you see. Will you 
have four to one in hundreds ? " 

" Very good. Sir John." 

" You seem to fancy him more for having 
been knocked down." 

" He was pushed down, but he stopped every 
blow, and I liked the look on his face as he got 
up again." 

" Well, it's the old stager for me. Here they 
come again ! He's got a pretty style, and he 
covers his points well, but it isn't the best look- 
ing that wins." 

They were at it again, and I was jumping 
about upon my bucket in my excitement. It 
was evident that Berks meant to finish the battle 
ofF-hand, whilst Jim, with two of the most ex- 
perienced men in England to advise him, was 
quite aware that his correct tactics were to allow 

208 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

the ruffian to expend his strength and wind in 
vain. There was something horrible in the fero- 
cious energy of Berks's hitting, every blow fetch- 
ing a grunt from him as he smashed it in, and 
after each I gazed at Jim, as I have gazed at a 
stranded vessel upon the Sussex beach when 
wave after wave has roared over it, fearing each 
time that I should find it miserably mangled. 
But still the lamplight shone upon the lad's clear, 
alert face, upon his well-opened eyes and his firm- 
set mouth, while the blows were taken upon his 
forearm or allowed, by a quick duck of the head, 
to whistle over his shoulder. But Berks was 
artful as well as violent. Gradually he worked 
Jim back into an angle of the ropes from which 
there was no escape, and then, when he had him 
fairly penned, he sprang upon him like a tiger. 
What happened was so quick that I cannot set 
its sequence down in words, but I saw Jim make 
a quick stoop under the swinging arms, and at 
the same instant I heard a sharp, ringing smack, 
and there was Jim dancing about in the middle 
of the ring, and Berks lying upon his side on the 
floor, with his hand to his eye. 

How they roared ! Prize-fighters, Corinthians, 
Prince, stable-boy, and landlord were all shout- 
ing at the top of their lungs. Old Buckhorse 
was skipping about on a box beside me, shriek- 
ing out criticisms and advice in strange, obsolete 

209 



RODNEY STONE 

ring-jargon, which no one could understand. 
His dull eyes were shining, his parchment face 
was quivering with excitement, and his strange 
musical call rang out above all the hubbub. The 
two men were hurried to their corners, one second 
sponging them down and the other flapping a 
towel in front of their faces, whilst they, with 
arms hanging down and legs extended, tried to 
draw all the air they could into their lungs in the 
brief space allowed them. 

" Where's your country hawbuck now ? " cried 
Craven, triumphantly. " Did ever you witness 
anything more masterly ? " 

" He's no Johnny Raw, certainly," said Sir 
John, shaking his head. " What odds are you 
giving on Berks, Lord Sele ? " 

" Two to one." 

" I take you twice in hundreds." 

" Here's Sir John Lade hedging ! " cried my 
uncle, smiling back at us over his shoulder. 

*' Time ! " said Jackson, and the two men 
sprang forward to the mark again. 

This round was a good deal shorter than that 
which had preceded it. Berks's orders evidently 
were to close at any cost, and so make use of his 
extra weight and strength before the superior 
condition of his antagonist could have time to 
tell. On the other hand, Jim, after his experi- 
ence in the last round, was less disposed to make 

210 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

any great exertion to keep him at arms' length. 
He led at Berks's head, as he came rushing in, 
and missed him, receiving a severe body blow 
in return, which left the imprint of four angry 
knuckles above his ribs. As they closed Jim 
caught his opponent's bullet head under his arm 
for an instant, and put a couple of half-arm 
blows in ; but the prize-fighter pulled him over 
by his weight, and the two fell panting side by 
side upon the ground. Jim sprang up, however, 
and walked over to his corner, while Berks, dis- 
tressed by his evening's dissipation, leaned one 
arm upon Mendoza and the other upon Dutch 
Sam as he made for his seat. 

" Bellows to mend I " cried Jem Belcher. 
" Where's the four to one now ? " 

" Give us time to get the lid off our pepper- 
box," said Mendoza. " We mean to make a 
night of it." 

" Looks like it," said Jack Harrison. " He's 
shut one of his eyes already. Even money that 
my boy wins it ! " 

" How much ? " asked several voices. 

" Two pound four and threepence," cried Har- 
rison, counting out all his worldly wealth. 

" Time ! " said Jackson once more. 

They were both at the mark in an instant, Jim 

as full of sprightly confidence as ever, and Berks 

with a fixed grin upon his bull- dog face and a 

211 



RODNEY STONE 

most vicious gleam in the only eye which was of 
use to him. His half-minute had not enabled 
him to recover his breath, and his huge, hairy 
chest was rising and falling with a quick, loud 
panting like a spent hound. " Go in, boy ! 
Bustle him ! " roared Harrison and Belcher. 
" Get your wind, Joe ; get your wind ! " cried 
the Jews. So now we had a reversal of tactics, 
for it was Jim who went in to hit with all the 
vigour of his young strength and unimpaired 
energy, while it was the savage Berks who was 
paying his debt to Nature for the many injuries 
which he had done her. He gasped, he gurgled, 
his face grew purple in his attempts to get his 
breath, while with his long left arm extended 
and his right thrown across, he tried to screen 
himself from the attack of his wiry antagonist. 
" Drop when he hits ! " cried Mendoza. " Drop 
and have a rest ! " 

But there was no shyness or shiftiness about 
Berks's fighting. He was always a gallant 
ruffian, who disdained to go down before an 
antagonist as long as his legs would sustain him. 
He propped Jim off with his long arm, and 
though the lad sprang lightly round him looking 
for an opening, he was held off as if a forty-inch 
bar of iron were between them. Every instant 
now was in favour of Berks, and already his 
breathing was easier and the bluish tinge fading 

212 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

from his face. Jim knew that his chance of a 
speedy victory was shpping away from him, and 
he came back again and again as swift as a flash 
to the attack without being able to get past the 
passive defence of the trained fighting-man. It 
was at such a moment that ringcraft was needed, 
and luckily for Jim two masters of it were at his 
back. 

" Get your left on his mark, boy," they 
shouted, " then go to his head with the right." 

Jim heard and acted on the instant. Plunk ! 
came his left just where his antagonist's ribs 
curved from his breast-bone. The force of the 
blow was half broken by Berks's elbow, but it 
served its purpose of bringing forward his head. 
Spank ! went the right, with the clear, crisp 
sound of two billiard balls clapping together, and 
Berks reeled, flung up his arms, spun round, and 
fell in a huge, fleshy heap upon the floor. His 
seconds were on him instantly, and propped him 
up in a sitting position, his head roUing help- 
lessly from one shoulder to the other, and finally 
topphng backwards with his chin pointed to the 
ceiling. Dutch Sam thrust the brandy-bladder 
between his teeth, while Mendoza shook him 
savagely and howled insults in his ear, but 
neither the spirits nor the sense of injury could 
break into that serene insensibility. " Time ! " 
was duly called, and the Jews, seeing that the 

213 



RODNEY STONE 

affair was over, let their man's head fall back 
with a crack upon the floor, and there he lay, his 
huge arms and legs asprawl, whilst the Corin- 
thians and fighting-men crowded past him to 
shake the hand of his conqueror. 

For my part, I tried also to press through the 
throng, but it was no easy task for one of the 
smallest and weakest men in the room. On all 
sides of me I heard a brisk discussion from 
amateurs and professionals of Jim's performance 
and of his prospects. 

" He's the best bit of new stuff that I've seen 
since Jem Belcher fought his first fight with Pad- 
dington Jones at Wormwood Scrubbs four years 
ago last April," said Berkeley Craven. " You'll 
see him with the belt round his waist before he's 
five-and- twenty, or 1 am no judge of a man." 

*' That handsome face of his has cost me a 
cool five hundred," gi'umbled Sir John Lade. 
" Who'd have thought he was such a punishing 
hitter ? " 

" For all that," said another, " I am confident 
that if Joe Berks had been sober he would have 
eaten him. Besides, the lad was in training, and 
the other would burst like an overdone potato if 
he were hit. I never saw a man so soft, or with 
his wind in such condition. Put the men in 
training, and it's a horse to a hen on the bruiser." 

Some agreed with the last speaker and some 

214 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

were against him, so that a brisk argument was 
being carried on around me. In the midst of it 
the Prince took his departure, which was the 
signal for the greater part of the company to 
make for the door. In this way I was able at 
last to reach the corner where Jim had just 
finished his dressing, while Champion Harrison, 
with tears of joy still shining upon his cheeks, 
was helping him on with his overcoat. 

"In four rounds I " he kept repeating in a sort 
of an ecstasy. " Joe Berks in four rounds ! 
And it took Jem Belcher fourteen ! " 

" Well, Roddy," cried Jim, holding out his 
hand, " I told you that I would come to London 
and make my name known." 

" It was splendid, Jim ! " 

" Dear old Roddy ! I saw your white face 
staring at me from the corner. You are not 
changed, for all your grand clothes and your 
London friends." 

*' It is you who are changed, Jim," said I ; " I 
hardly knew you when you came into the 
room." 

" Nor I," cried the smith. " Where got you 
all these fine feathers, Jim ? Sure I am that it 
was not your aunt who helped you to the first 
step towards the prize-ring." 

" Miss Hinton has been my friend — the best 

friend I ever had." 

215 



RODNEY STONE 

" Humph ! I thought as much," grumbled 
the smith. " Well, it is no doing of mine, Jim, 
and you must bear witness to that when we go 
home again. I don't know what — but, there, it 
is done, and it can't be helped. After all, she's 

Now, the deuce take my clumsy 

tongue ! " 

I could not tell whether it was the wine which 
he had taken at supper or the excitement of Boy 
Jim's victory which was affecting Harrison, but 
his usually placid face wore a most disturbed ex- 
pression, and his manner seemed to betray an 
alternation of exultation and embarrassment. 
Jim looked curiously at him, wondering evi- 
dently what it was that lay behind these abrupt 
sentences and sudden silences. The coach- 
house had in the meantime been cleared ; Berks 
with many curses had staggered at last to his 
feet, and had gone off in company with two 
other bruisers, while Jem Belcher alone remained 
chatting very earnestly with my uncle. 

" Very good. Belcher," I heard my uncle say. 

*' It would be a real pleasure to me to do it, 
sir," said the famous prize-fighter, as the two 
walked towards us. 

*' I wished to ask you, Jim Harrison, whether 

you would undertake to be my champion in the 

fight against Crab Wilson of Gloucester ? " said 

my uncle. 

216 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

" That is what I want, Sir Charles — to have a 
chance of fighting my way upwards." 

*' There are heavy stakes upon the event — 
very heavy stakes," said my uncle. " You will 
receive two hundred pounds, if you win. Does 
that satisfy you ? " 

" I shall fight for the honour, and because I 
wish to be thought worthy of being matched 
against Jem Belcher." 

Belcher laughed good-humouredly. 

'* You are going the right way about it, lad," 
said he. " But you had a soft thing on to-night 
with a drunken man who was out of condi- 
tion." 

" I did not wish to fight him," said Jim, flush- 
ing. 

" Oh, I know you have spirit enough to fight 
anything on two legs. I knew that the instant 
I clapped eyes on you ; but I want you to re- 
member that when you fight Crab Wilson, you 
wiU fight the most promising man from the west, 
and that the best man of the west is likely to be 
the best man in England. He's as quick and as 
long in the reach as you are, and he'll train him- 
self to the last half-ounce of tallow. I tell you 
this now, d'ye see, because if I'm to have the 
charge of you " 

" Charge of me ! " 

" Yes," said my uncle. " Belcher has, CQEfc- 

217 



RODNEY STONE 

sented to train you for the coming battle if you 
are willing to enter." 

" I am sure I am very much obliged to you," 
cried Jim, heartily. "Unless my uncle should 
wish to train me, there is no one I would rather 
have." 

" Nay, Jim ; I'll stay with you a few days, 
but Belcher knows a deal more about training 
than I do. Where will the quarters be ? " 

" I thought it would be handy for you if we 
fixed it at the George, at Crawley. Then, if we 
have choice of place, we might choose Crawley 
Down, for, except IMolesey Hurst, and, maybe, 
Smitham Bottom, there isn't a spot in the coun- 
try that would compare with it for a mill. Do 
you agree with that ? " 

" With all my heart," said Jim. 

" Then you're my man from this hour on, 
d'ye see ? " said Belcher. " Your food is mine, 
and your drink is mine, and your sleep is mine, 
and all you've to do is just what you are told. 
We haven't an hour to lose, for Wilson has been 
in half-training this month back. You saw his 
empty glass to-night." 

" Jim's fit to fight for his life at the present 

moment," said Harrison. " But we'll both come 

down to Crawley to-morrow. So good night, 

Sir Charles." 

"Good night, Roddy," said Jim. "You'll 

218 



THE FIGHT IN THE COACH-HOUSE 

come down to Crawley and see me at my train- 
ing quarters, will you not ? " 

And I heartily promised that I would. 

"You must be more careful, nephew," said 
my uncle, as we rattled home in his model vis-a- 
vis. " En premiere jeunesse one is a httle in- 
clined to be ruled by one's heart rather than by 
one's reason. Jim Harrison seems to be a most 
respectable young fellow, but after all he is a 
blacksmith's apprentice, and a candidate for the 
prize-ring. There is a vast gap between his 
position and that of my own blood relation, and 
you must let him feel that you are his superior." 

" He is the oldest and dearest friend that I 
have in the world, sir," I answered. " We were 
boys together, and have never had a secret from 
each other. As to showing him that I am his 
superior, I don't know how I can do that, for I 
know very weU that he is mine." 

" Hum ! " said my uncle, drily, and it was the 
last word that he addressed to me that night. 



15 219 



CHAPTER XII 

THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

So Boy Jim went down to the George, at Craw- 
ley, under the charge of Jim Belcher and Cham- 
pion Harrison, to train for his great fight with 
Crab Wilson, of Gloucester, whilst every club 
and bar parlour of London rang with the account 
of how he had appeared at a supper of Corin- 
thians, and beaten the formidable Joe Berks in 
four rounds. I remembered that afternoon at 
Friar's Oak when Jim had told me that he would 
make his name known, and his words had come 
true sooner than he could have expected it, for, 
go where one might, one heard of nothing but 
the match between Sir Lothian Hume and Sir 
Charles Tregellis, and the points of the two prob- 
able combatants. The betting was still steadily 
in favour of Wilson, for he had a number of bye- 
battles to set against this single victory of Jim's, 
and it was thought by connoisseurs who had seen 
him spar that the singular defensive tactics which 
had given him his nickname would prove very 
puzzling to a raw antagonist. In height, strength, 
and reputation for gameness there was very little 

220 



THE COFFEE-ROOIM OF FLADONG'S 

to choose between them, but Wilson had been 
the more severely tested. 

It was but a few days before the battle that 
my father made his promised visit to London. 
The seaman had no love of cities, and was hap- 
pier wandering over the Downs, and turning his 
glass upon every topsail which showed above the 
horizon, than when finding his way among crowded 
streets, where, as he complained, it was impossi- 
ble to keep a course by the sun, and hard enough 
by dead reckoning. Rumours of war were in the 
air, however, and it was necessary that he should 
use his influence with Lord Nelson if a vacancy 
were to be found either for himself or for me. 

My uncle had just set forth, as was his custom 
of an evening, clad in his green riding-frock, his 
plate buttons, his Cordovan boots, and his round 
hat, to show himself upon his crop-tailed tit in 
the Mall. I had remained behind, for, indeed, I 
had already made up my mind that 1 had no 
calling for this fashionable life. These men, with 
their small waists, their gestures, and their un- 
natural ways, had become wearisome to me, and 
even my uncle, with his cold and patronizing 
manner, filled me with very mixed feelings. 
My thoughts were back in Sussex, and I was 
dreaming of the kindly, simple ways of the coun- 
try, when there came a rat-tat at the knocker, 

the ring of a hearty voice, and there, in the door- 

221 



RODNEY STONE 

way, was the smiling, weather-beaten face, with 
the puckered eyehds and the hght blue eyes. 

" Why, Roddy, you are grand indeed ! " he 
cried. " But I had rather see you with the 
King's blue coat upon your back than with all 
these frills and ruffles." 

" And I had rather wear it, father." 

" It warms my heart to hear you say so. Lord 
Nelson has promised me that he would find a 
berth for you, and to-morrow we shall seek him 
out and remind him of it. But where is your 
uncle ? " 

" He is riding in the ISIall." 

A look of relief passed over my father's honest 
face, for he was never very easy in his brother-in- 
law's company. " I have been to the Admiralty," 
said he, " and I trust that I shall have a ship 
when war breaks out ; by all accounts it will not 
be long first. Lord St. Vincent told me so with 
his own lips. But I am at Fladong's, Rodney, 
where, if you will come and sup with me, you 
will see some of my messmates from the Mediter- 
ranean." 

When you think that in the last year of the 

war we had 140,000 seamen and marines afloat, 

commanded by 4000 officers, and that half of 

these had been turned adrift when the Peace of 

Amiens laid their ships up in the Hamoaze or 

Portsdown creek, you will understand that Lon- 

222 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

don, as well as the dockyard towns, was full of 
seafarers. You could not walk the streets with- 
out catching sight of the gipsy-faced, keen-eyed 
men whose plain clothes told of their thin purses 
as plainly as their listless air showed their weari- 
ness of a life of forced and unaccustomed inaction. 
Amid the dark streets and brick houses there was 
something out of place in their appearance, as 
when the sea-gulls, driven by stress of weather, 
are seen in the ^lidland shires. Yet while prize- 
courts procrastinated, or there was a chance of 
an appointment by showing their sunburned 
faces at the Admiralty, so long they would con- 
tinue to pace with their quarter-deck strut down 
Whitehall, or to gather of an evening to discuss 
the events of the last war or the chances of the 
next at Fladong's, in Oxford Street, which was 
reserved as entirely for the Navy as Slaughter's 
was for the Army, or Ibbetson's for the Church 
of England. 

It did not surprise me, therefore, that we should 
find the large room in which we supped crowded 
with naval men, but I remember that what did 
cause me some astonishment was to observe that 
all these sailors, who had served under the most 
varying conditions in all quarters of the globe, 
from the Baltic to the East Indies, should have 
been moulded into so uniform a type that they 
were more like each other than brother is com- 

223 



RODNEY STONE 

monly to brother. The rules of the service in- 
sured that every face should be clean-shaven, every 
head powdered, and every neck covered by the 
little queue of natural hair tied with a black silk 
ribbon. Biting winds and tropical suns had com- 
bined to darken them, whilst the habit of com- 
mand and the menace of ever-recurring dangers 
had stamped them all with the same expression 
of authority and of alertness. There were some 
jovial faces amongst them, but the older officers, 
with their deep-lined cheeks and their masterful 
noses, were, for the most part, as austere as so 
many weather-beaten ascetics from the desert. 
Lonely watches, and a discipline which cut them 
off from all companionship, had left their mark 
upon those Red Indian faces. For my part, I 
could hardly eat my supper for watching them. 
Young as I was, I knew that if there were any 
freedom left in Europe it was to these men that 
we owed it ; and I seemed to read upon their 
grim, harsh features the record of that long ten 
years of struggle which had swept the tricolour 
from the seas. 

When we had finished our supper, my father 
led me into the great coffee-room, where a hun- 
dred or more officers may have been assembled, 
drinking their wine and smoking their long clay 
pipes, until the air was as thick as the main- 
deck in a close-fought action. As we entered 

224 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

we found ourselves face to face with an elderly 
officer who was coming out. He was a man 
with large, thoughtful eyes, and a full, placid 
face — such a face as one would expect from a 
philosopher and a philanthropist, rather than 
from a fighting seaman. 

" Here's Cuddie Collingwood," whispered my 
father. 

'* Halloa, Lieutenant Stone ! " cried the fa- 
mous admiral very cheerily. " I have scarce 
caught a glimpse of you since you came aboard 
the Excellent after St. Vincent. You had the 
luck to be at the Nile also, I understand ? " 

" I was third of the Jlieseus, under Millar, sir." 

" It nearly broke my heart to have missed it. 
I have not yet outlived it. To think of such a 
gallant service, and I engaged in harassing the 
market-boats, the miserable cabbage-carriers of 
St. Luccars ! " 

" Your plight was better than mine. Sir Cuth- 
bert," said a voice from behind us, and a large 
man in the full uniform of a post-captain took a 
step forward to include himself in our circle. 
His mastiff face was heavy with emotion, and he 
shook his head miserably as he spoke. 

" Yes, yes, Troubridge, I can understand and 
sympathize with your feelings." 

" I passed through torment that night, Col- 
lingwood. It left a mark on me that I shall 

225 



RODNEY STONE 

never lose until I go over the ship's side in a 
canvas cover. To have my beautiful Culloden 
laid on a sandbank just out of gunshot. To 
hear and see the fight the whole night through, 
and never to pull a lanyard or take the tompions 
out of my guns. Twice I opened my pistol-case 
to blow out my brains, and it was but the 
thought that Nelson might have a use for me 
that held me back." 

Collingwood shook the hand of the unfortu- 
nate captain. 

"Admiral Nelson was not long in finding a 
use for you, Troubridge," said he. "We have 
all heard of your siege of Capua, and how you 
ran up your ship's guns without trenches or par- 
allels, and fired point-blank through the embra- 
sures." 

The melancholy cleared away from the mas- 
sive face of the big seaman, and his deep laugh- 
ter filled the room. 

"I'm not clever enough or slow enough for 
their Z-Z fashions," said he. " We got along- 
side and slapped it in through their port-holes 
until they struck their colours. But where have 
you been. Sir Cuthbert ? " 

" With my wife and my two little lasses at 
Morpeth in the North Country. I have but 
seen them this once in ten years, and it may be 
ten more, for all I know, ere I see them again. 

226 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

I have been doing good work for the fleet up 
yonder." 

" I had thought, sir, that it was inland," said 
my father. 

CoUingwood took a httle black bag out of his 
pocket and shook it. 

" Inland it is," said he, " and yet I have done 
good work for the fleet there. What do you 
suppose I hold in this bag ? " 

" Bullets," said Troubridge. 

" Something that a sailor needs even more 
than that," answered the admiral, and turning it 
over he tilted a pile of acorns on to his palm. 
" I carry them with me in my country walks, 
and where I see a fruitful nook I thrust one 
deep with the end of my cane. My oak trees 
may fight those rascals over the water when I 
am long forgotten. Do you know, heutenant, 
how many oaks go to make an eighty-gun ship ? " 

My father shook his head. 

" Two thousand, no less. For every two- 
decked ship that carries the white ensign there is 
a grove the less in England. So how are our 
grandsons to beat the PVench if we do not give 
them the trees with which to build their ships ? " 

He replaced his bag in his pocket, and then, 
passing his arm through Troubridge's, they went 
through the door together. 

" There's a man whose life might help you to 

227 



RODNEY STONE 

trim your own course," said my father, as we 
took our seats at a vacant table. " He is ever 
the same quiet gentleman, with his thoughts 
busy for the comfort of the ship's company, and 
his heart with his wife and children whom he has 
so seldom seen. It is said in the fleet that an 
oath has never passed his lips, Rodney, though 
how he managed when he was first lieutenant of 
a raw crew is more than I can conceive. But 
they all love Cuddie, for they know he's an an- 
gel to fight. How d'ye do. Captain Foley? 
My respects. Sir Ed'ard ! Why, if they could 
but press the company, they would man a cor- 
vette with flag oflicers. 

" There's many a man here, Rodney," contin- 
ued my father, as he glanced about him, " whose 
name may never find its way into any book save 
his own ship's log, but who in his own way has 
set as fine an example as any admiral of them 
all. We know them, and talk of them in the 
fleet, though they may never be bawled in the 
streets of London. There's as much seamanship 
and pluck in a good cutter action as in a line-o'- 
battle-ship fight, though you may not come by 
a title nor the thanks of Parliament for it. 
There's Hamilton, for example, the quiet, pale- 
faced man who is leaning against the pillar. It 
was he who, with six rowing-boats, cut out the 
44-gun frigate Hermione from under the muz- 

228 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

zles of two hundred shore-guns in the harbour 
of Puerto Cabello. No finer action was done in 
the whole war. There's Jaheel Brenton, with 
the whiskers. It was he who attacked twelve 
Spanish gunboats in his one little brig, and made 
four of them strike to him. There's Walker, of 
the Rose cutter, who, with thirteen men, en- 
gaged three French privateers with crews of a 
hundred and forty-six. He sank one, captured 
one, and chased the third. How are you, Cap- 
tain Ball ? I hope I see you well ? " 

Two or three of my father's acquaintances who 
had been sitting close by drew up their chairs to 
us, and soon quite a circle had formed, all talking 
loudly and arguing upon sea matters, shaking 
their long, red-tipped pipes at each other as they 
spoke. My father whispered in my ear that his 
neighbour was Captain Foley, of the Goliath, who 
led the van at the Nile, and that the tall, thin, 
foxy-haired man opposite was Lord Cochrane, 
the most dashing frigate captain in the Ser- 
vice. Even at Friar's Oak we had heard how, 
in the little Speedy, of fourteen small guns with 
fifty- four men, he had carried by boarding the 
Spanish frigate Gamo with her crew of three 
hundred. It was easy to see that he was a quick, 
irascible, high-blooded man, for he was talking 
hotly about his grievances with a flush of anger 
upon his freckled cheeks. 

229 



RODNEY STONE 

" We shall never do any good upon the ocean 
until we have hanged the dockyard contractors," 
he cried. " I'd have a dead dockyard contractor 
as a figure-head for every first-rate in the fleet, 
and a provision dealer for every frigate. I know 
them with their puttied seams and their devil 
bolts, risking five hundred fives that they may 
steal a few pounds' worth of copper. What be- 
came of the Chance, and of the Martin, and of 
the Orestes ? They foundered at sea, and were 
never heard of more, and I say that the crews of 
them were murdered men." 

Lord Cochrane seemed to be expressing the 
views of all, for a murmur of assent, with a mut- 
ter of hearty, deep-sea curses, ran round the circle. 

" Those rascals over yonder manage things 
better," said an old one-eyed captain, with the 
blue-and-white riband for St. Vincent peeping 
out of his third button-hole. " They sheer away 
their heads if they get up to any foolery. Did 
ever a vessel come out of Toulon as my 38-gun 
frigate did from Plymouth last year, with her 
masts rolhng about until her shrouds were like 
iron bars on one side and hanging in festoons 
upon the other? The meanest sloop that ever 
sailed out of France would have overmatched 
her, and then it would be on me, and not on this 
Devonport bungler, that a court-martial would 
be called." 

230 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

They loved to grumble, those old salts, for as 
soon as one had shot off his grievance his neigh- 
bour would follow with another, each more bitter 
than the last. 

" Look at our sails ! " cried Captain Foley. 
" Put a French and a British ship at anchor to- 
gether, and how can you tell which is which ? " 

" Frenchy has his fore and maintop-gallant 
masts about equal," said my father. 

"In the old ships, maybe, but how many of 
the new are laid down on the French model? 
No, there's no way of telling them at anchor. 
But let them hoist sail, and how d you tell them 
then ? " 

" Frenchy has white sails," cried several. 

"And ours are black and rotten. That's the 
difference. No wonder they outsail us when the 
wind can blow through our canvas." 

" In the Speedy,'' said Cochrane, " the sailcloth 
was so thin that, when 1 made my observation, 
I always took my meridian through the foretop- 
sail and my horizon through the foresail." 

There was a general laugh at this, and then at 
it they all went again, letting off into speech all 
those weary broodings and silent troubles which 
had rankled during long years of service, for an 
iron discipUne prevented them from speaking 
when their feet were upon their own quarter- 
decks. One told of his powder, six pounds of 

231 



RODNEY STONE 

which were needed to throw a ball a thousand 
yards. Another cursed the Admiralty Courts, 
where a prize goes in as a full-rigged ship and 
comes out as a schooner. The old captain spoke 
of the promotions by Parliamentary interest 
which had put many a youngster into the cap- 
tain's cabin when he should have been in the 
gun-room. And then they came back to the 
difficulty of finding crews for their vessels, and 
they all together raised up their voices and 
wailed. 

" What is the use of building fresh ships," 
cried Foley, " when even with a ten - pound 
bounty you can't man the ships that you have 
got?" 

But Lord Cochrane was on the other side in 
this question. 

" You'd have the men, sir, if you treated them 
well when you got them," said he. "Admiral 
Nelson can get his ships manned. So can Ad- 
miral CoUingwood. Why? Because he has 
thought for the men, and so the men have 
thought for him. Let men and officers know 
and respect each other, and there's no difficulty 
in keeping a ship's company. It's the infernal 
plan of turning a crew over from ship to ship and 
leaving the officers behind that rots the Navy. 
But I have never found a difficulty, and I dare 
swear that if I hoist my pennant to-morrow I 

232 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

shall have all my old Speedies back, and as many 
volunteers as I care to take." 

" That is very well, my lord," said the old cap- 
tain, with some warmth ; " when the Jacks hear 
that the Speedy took fifty vessels in thirteen 
months, they are sure to volunteer to serve with 
her commander. Every good cruiser can fill her 
complement quickly enough. But it is not the 
cruisers that fight the country's battles and block- 
ade the enemy's ports. I say that all prize- 
money should be divided equally among the 
whole fleet, and until you have such a rule, the 
smartest men will always be found where they 
are of least service to any one but themselves." 

This speech produced a chorus of protests 
from the cruiser officers and a hearty agreement 
from the line-of-battle-ship men, who seemed 
to be in the majority in the circle which had 
gathered round. From the flushed faces and 
angry glances it was evident that the question 
was one upon which there was strong feehng 
upon both sides. 

" What the cruiser gets the cruiser earns," cried 
a frigate captain. 

" Do you mean to say, sir," said Captain Foley, 
" that the duties of an officer upon a cruiser de- 
mand more care or higher professional abihty 
than those of one who is employed upon block- 
ade service, with a lee coast under him whenever 

233 



RODNEY STONE 

the wind shifts to the west, and the topmasts of 
an enemy's squadron forever in his sight ? " 

" I do not claim higher abihty, sir." 

" Then why should you claim higher pay ? 
Can you deny that a seaman before the mast 
makes more in a fast frigate than a Heutenant 
can in a battle-ship ? " 

" It was only last year," said a very gentle- 
manly-looking officer, who might have passed for 
a buck upon town had his skin not been burned 
to copper in such sunshine as never bursts upon 
London — " it was only last year that I brought 
the old Alexander back from the Mediterranean, 
floating like an empty barrel and carrying noth- 
ing but honour for her cargo. In the Channel 
we fell in with the frigate Minerva from the 
Western Ocean, with her lee ports under water 
and her hatches bursting with the plunder which 
had been too valuable to trust to the prize crews. 
She had ingots of silver along her yards and 
bowsprit, and a bit of silver plate at the truck 
of the masts. My Jacks could have fired into 
her, and would, too, if they had not been held 
back. It made them mad to think of all they 
had done in the south, and then to see this 
saucy frigate flashing her money before their 
eyes." 

" I cannot see their grievance, Captain BaU," 

said Cochrane. 

234 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

" When you are promoted to a two-decker, 
my lord, it will possibly become clearer to 
you." 

*' You speak as if a cruiser had nothing to do 
but take prizes. If that is your view, you will 
permit me to say that you know very little of 
the matter. I have handled a sloop, a corvette, 
and a frigate, and I have found a great variety 
of duties in each of them. I have had to avoid 
the enemy's battle-ships and to fight his cruisers. 
I have had to chase and capture his privateers, 
and to cut them out when they run under his 
batteries. I have had to engage his forts, to take 
my men ashore, and to destroy his guns and his 
signal stations. iVU this, with convoying, recon- 
noitring, and risking one's own ship in order to 
gain a knowledge of the enemy's movements, 
comes under the duties of the commander of a 
cruiser. I make bold to say that the man who 
can carry these objects out with success has de- 
served better of the country than the officer of a 
battle-ship, tacking from Ushant to the Black 
Rocks and back again until she builds up a reef 
with her beef-bones." 

" Sir," said the angry old sailor, " such an of- 
ficer is at least in no danger of being mistaken 
for a privateersman." 

" I am surprised, Captain Bulkeley," Cochrane 

retorted hotly, "that you should venture to 
16 235 



RODNEY STONE 

couple the names of privateersman and King's 
officer." 

There was mischief brewing among these hot- 
headed, short-spoken salts, but Captain Foley 
changed the subject to discuss the new ships 
which were being built in the French ports. It 
was of interest to me to hear these men, who 
were spending their lives in fighting against our 
neighbours, discussing their character and ways. 
You cannot conceive — you who live in times of 
peace and charity — how fierce the hatred was in 
England at that time against the French, and 
above all against their great leader. It was more 
than a mere prejudice or dishke. It was a deep, 
aggressive loathing of which you may even now 
form some conception if you examine the papers 
or caricatures of the day. The word " French- 
man " was hardly spoken without " rascal " or 
" scoundrel " shpping in before it. In all ranks 
of life and in every part of the country the feel- 
ing was the same. Even the Jacks aboard our 
ships fought with a viciousness against a French 
vessel which they would never show to Dane, 
Dutchman, or Spaniard. 

If you ask me now, after fifty years, why it 

was that there should have been this virulent 

feeUng against them, so foreign to the easy-going 

and tolerant British nature, I would confess that 

I think the real reason was fear. Not fear of 

236 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

them individually, of course — our foulest detrac- 
tors have never called us faint-hearted — but fear 
of their star, fear of their future, fear of the sub- 
tle brain whose plans always seemed to go aright, 
and of the heavy hand which had struck nation 
after nation to the ground. We were but a 
small country, with a population which, when 
the war began, was not much more than half 
that of France. And then, France had increased 
by leaps and bounds, reaching out to the north 
into Belgium and Holland, and to the south into 
Italy, whilst we were weakened by deep-lying 
disaffection among both Catholics and Presby- 
terians in Ireland. The danger was imminent 
and plain to the least thoughtful. One could 
not walk the Kent coast without seeing the bea- 
cons heaped up to tell the country of the ene- 
my's landing, and if the sun were shining on the 
uplands near Boulogne, one might catch the 
flash of its gleam upon the bayonets of manoeu- 
vring veterans. No wonder that a fear of the 
French power lay deeply in the hearts of the 
most gallant men, and that fear should, as it al- 
ways does, beget a bitter and rancorous hatred. 

The seamen did not speak kindly then of their 
recent enemies. Their hearts loathed them, and 
in the fashion of our country their hps said what 
the heart felt. Of the French officers they could 
not have spoken with more chivalry, as of worthy 

237 



RODNEY STONE 

foemen, but the nation was an abomination to 
them. The older men had fought against them 
in the American War, they had fought again for 
the last ten years, and the dearest wish of their 
hearts seemed to be that they might be called 
upon to do the same for the remainder of their 
days. Yet if I was surprised by the virulence of 
their animosity against the French, I was even 
more so to hear how highly they rated them as 
antagonists. The long succession of British vic- 
tories which had finally made the French take to 
their ports and resign the struggle in despair had 
given all of us the idea that for some reason a 
Briton on the water must, in the nature of things, 
always have the best of it against a Frenchman. 
But these men who had done the fighting did 
not think so. They were loud in their praise of 
their foeman's gallantry, and precise in their 
reasons for his defeat. They showed how the 
officers of the old French Navy had nearly all 
been aristocrats. How the Revolution had 
swept them out of their ships, and the force 
been left with insubordinate seamen and no com- 
petent leaders. This ill- directed fleet had been 
hustled into port by the pressure of the well- 
manned and well- commanded British, who had 
pinned them there ever since, so that they had 
never had an opportunity of learning seaman- 
ship. Their harbour drill and their harbour gun- 

238 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

nery had been of no service when sails had to be 
trimmed and broadsides fired on the heave of an 
Atlantic swell. Let one of their frigates get to 
sea and have a couple of years' free run in which 
the crew might learn their duties, and then it 
would be a feather in the cap of a British officer 
if with a ship of equal force he could bring down 
her colours. 

Such were the views of these experienced 
officers, fortified by many reminiscences and ex- 
amples of French gallantry, such as the way in 
which the crew of the L'Orient had fought her 
quarter-deck guns when the main-deck was in a 
blaze beneath them, and when they must have 
known that they were standing over an explod- 
ing magazine. The general hope was that the 
West Indian expedition since the peace might 
have given many of their fleet an ocean training, 
and that they might be tempted out into mid- 
Channel if the war were to break out afresh. 
But would it break out afresh ? We had spent 
gigantic sums and made enormous exertions to 
curb the power of Napoleon and to prevent him 
from becoming the universal despot of Europe. 
Would the Government try it again ? Or 
were they appalled by the gigantic load of 
debt which must bend the backs of many 
generations unborn? Pitt was there, and surely 
he was not a man to leave his work half done. 

239 



RODNEY STONE 

And then suddenly there was a bustle at the 
door. Amid the grey swirl of the tobacco- 
smoke I could catch a glimpse of a blue coat 
and gold epaulettes, with a crowd gathering 
thickly round them, while a hoarse murmur rose 
from the group which thickened into a deep- 
chested cheer. Every one was on his feet, peer- 
ing and asking each other what it might mean. 
And still the crowd seethed and the cheering 
swelled. 

" What is it ? What has happened ? " cried a 
score of voices. 

*' Put him up ! Hoist him up ! " shouted 
somebody, and an instant later I saw Captain 
Troubridge appear above the shoulders of the 
crowd. His face was flushed, as if he were in 
wine, and he was waving what seemed to be a 
letter in the air. The cheering died away, and 
there was such a hush that I could hear the 
crackle of the paper in his hand. 

" Great news, gentlemen ! " he roared. " Glo- 
rious news ! Rear- Admiral CoUingwood has 
directed me to communicate it to you. The 
French Ambassador has received his papers to- 
night. Every ship on the list is to go into com- 
mission. Admiral Cornwallis is ordered out of 
Cawsand Bay to cruise off Ushant. A squadron 
is starting for the North Sea and another for the 
Irish Channel." 

240 



THE COFFEE-ROOM OF FLADONG'S 

He may have had more to say, but his audi- 
ence could wait no longer. How they shouted 
and stamped and raved in their delight I Harsh 
old flag-officers, grave post-captains, young lieu- 
tenants, all were roaring like schoolboys break- 
ing up for the holidays. Tliere was no thouglit 
now of those manifold and weary grievances to 
which I had listened. The foul weather was 
passed, and the landlocked sea-birds would be 
out on the foam once more. The rhythm of 
" God Save the King " swelled through the 
babel, and I heard the old lines sung in a way 
that made you forget their bad rhymes and their 
bald sentiments. I trust that you will never 
hear them so sung, with tears upon rugged 
cheeks, and catchings of the breath from strong 
men. Dark days will have come again before 
you hear such a song or see such a sight as that. 
Let those talk of the phlegm of our countrymen 
who have never seen them when the lava crust 
of restraint is broken, and when for an instant 
the strong, enduring fires of the North glow 
upon the surface. I saw them then, and if I do 
not see them now, I am not so old or so foolish 
as to doubt that they are there. 



241 



CHAPTER XIII 
LORD NELSON 

My father's appointment with Lord Nelson was 
an early one, and he was the more anxious to be 
punctual as he knew how much the Admiral's 
movements must be affected by the news which 
we had heard the night before. I had hardly 
breakfasted then, and my uncle had not rung for 
his chocolate, when he called for me at Jermyn 
Street. A walk of a few hundred yards brought 
us to the high building of discoloured brick in 
Piccadilly, which served the Hamiltons as a 
town house, and which Nelson used as his head- 
quarters when business or pleasure called him 
from Merton. A footman answered our knock, 
and we were ushered into a large drawing-room 
with sombre furniture and melancholy curtains. 
My father sent in his name, and there we sat, 
looking at the white Italian statuettes in the cor- 
ners, and the picture of Vesuvius and the Bay of 
Naples which hung over the harpsichord. I can 
remember that a black clock was ticking loudly 
upon the mantelpiece, and that every now and 
then, amid the rumble of the hackney coaches, 

242 



LORD NELSON 

we could hear boisterous laughter from some 
inner chamber. 

When at last the door opened, both my father 
and I sprang to our feet, expecting to find our- 
selves face to face with the greatest living Eng- 
lishman. It was a very different person, how- 
ever, who swept into the room. 

She was a lady, tall, and, as it seemed to me, 
exceedingly beautiful, though, perhaps, one who 
was more experienced and more critical might 
have thought that her charm lay in the past 
rather than the present. Her queenly figure 
was moulded upon large and noble lines, while 
her face, though already tending to become 
somewhat heavy and coarse, was still remarkable 
for the brilliancy of the complexion, the beauty 
of the large, light blue eyes, and the tinge of the 
chestnut hair which curled over the low white 
forehead. She carried herself in the most state- 
ly fashion, so that as I looked at her majestic 
entrance, and at the pose which she struck as 
she glanced at my father, I was reminded of the 
Queen of the Peruvians as, in the person of INIiss 
Polly Hinton, she incited Boy Jim and myself 
to insurrection. 

" Lieutenant Anson Stone ? " she asked. 

" Yes, your ladyship," answered my father. 

" Ah," she cried, with an affected and exagger- 
ated start, " you know me, then ? " 

243 



RODNEY STONE 

" 1 have seen your ladyship at Naples." 

" Then you have doubtless seen my poor Sir 
William also — my poor, poor Sir William ! " 
She touched her dress with her white, ring-cov- 
ered fingers, as if to draw our attention to the 
fact that she was in the deepest mourning. 

" I heard of your ladyship's sad loss," said my 
father. 

" We died together," she cried. *' What can 
my life be now save a long-drawn living death ? " 

She spoke in a beautiful, rich voice, with the 
most heart-broken thrill in it, but I could not 
conceal from myself that she appeared to be one 
of the most robust persons that I had ever seen, 
and I was surprised to notice that she shot arch 
little questioning glances at me, as if the admira- 
tion even of so insignificant a person were of 
some interest to her. My father, in his blunt, 
sailor fashion, tried to stammer out some com- 
monplace condolence, but her eyes swept past 
his rude, weather-beaten face to ask and reask 
what effect she had made upon me. 

" There he hangs, the tutelary angel of this 
house," she cried, pointing with a grand sweep- 
ing gesture to a painting upon the wall, which 
represented a very thin-faced, high-nosed gentle- 
man with several orders upon his coat. " But 
enough of my private sorrow ! " She dashed 
invisible tears from her eyes. "You have come 

244 



LORD NELSON 

to see Lord Nelson. He bid me say that he 
would be with you in an instant. You have 
doubtless heard that hostilities are about to 
reopen ? " 

" We heard the news last night." 

" Lord Nelson is under orders to take com- 
mand of the Mediterranean Fleet. You can 

think at such a moment But, ah, is it not 

his lordship's step that I hear ? " 

My attention was so riveted by the lady's 
curious manner and by the gestures and atti- 
tudes with which she accompanied every remark, 
that I did not see the gi*eat admiral enter the 
room. When 1 turned he was standing close by 
my elbow, a small, brown man with the lithe, 
slim figure of a boy. He was not clad in uni- 
form, but he wore a high-collared brown coat, 
with the right sleeve hanging limp and empty 
by his side. The expression of his face was, as 
I remember it, exceedingly sad and gentle, with 
the deep lines upon it which told of the chafing 
of his urgent and fiery soul. One eye was dis- 
figured and sightless from a wound, but the 
other looked from my father to myself with the 
quickest and shrewdest of expressions. Indeed, 
his whole manner, with his short, sharp glance 
and the fine poise of the head, spoke of energy 
and alertness, so that he reminded me, if I may 
compare great things with small, of a well-bred 

245 



RODNEY STONE 

fighting terrier, gentle and slim, but keen and 
ready for whatever chance might send. 

" Why, Lieutenant Stone," said he, with great 
cordiality, holding out his left hand to my father, 
" I am very glad to see you. London is full of 
Mediterranean men, but I trust that in a week 
there will not be an officer amongst you all with 
his feet on dry land." 

" I had come to ask you, sir, if you could 
assist me to a ship." 

" You shall have one. Stone, if my word goes 
for anything at the Admiralty. I shall want all 
my old Nile men at my back. I cannot promise 
you a first-rate, but at least it shall be a 64-gun 
ship, and I can tell you that there is much to 
be done with a handy, well-manned, well-found 
64-gun ship." 

"Who could doubt it who has heard of the Aga- 

7nemno7i?'' cried Lady Hamilton, and straightway 

she began to talk of the admiral and of his doings 

with such extravagance of praise and such a 

shower of compliments and of epithets, that my 

father and I did not know which way to look, 

feeling shame and sorrow for a man who was 

compelled to listen to such things said in his own 

presence. But when I ventured to glance at 

Lord Nelson I found, to my surprise, that, far 

from showing any embarrassment, he was smiling 

with pleasure, as if this gross flattery of her lady- 

216 



LORD NELSON 

ship's were the dearest thing in all the world to 
him. 

" Come, come, my dear lady," said he, " you 
speak vastly beyond my merits ; " upon which 
encouragement she started again in a theatrical 
apostrophe to Britain's darhng and Neptune's 
eldest son, which he endured with the same signs 
of gratitude and pleasure. That a man of the 
world, five-and-forty years of age, shrewd, honest, 
and acquainted with Courts, should be beguiled 
by such crude and coarse homage, amazed me, 
as it did all who knew him ; but you who have 
seen much of life do not need to be told how 
often the strongest and noblest nature has its 
one inexpUcable weakness, showing up the more 
obviously in contrast to the rest, as the dark 
stain looks the fouler upon the whitest sheet. 

"You are a sea-officer of my own heart. Stone," 
said he, when her ladyship had exhausted her 
panegyric. " You are one of the old breed ! " 
He walked up and down the room with httle, 
impatient steps as he talked, turning with a 
whisk upon his heel every now and then, as if 
some invisible rail had brought him up. " We 
are getting too fine for our work with these new- 
fangled epaulettes and quarter-deck trimmings. 
When I joined the Service, you would find a 
lieutenant gammoning and rigging his own bow- 
sprit, or aloft, maybe, with a marUnspike slung 

247 



KODNEY STONE 

round his neck, showing an example to his men. 
Now, it's as much as he'll do to carry his own 
sextant up the companion. When could you 
join ? " 

" To-night, my lord." 

" Right, Stone, right ! That is the true spirit. 
They are working double tides in the yards, but 
I do not know when the ships will be ready. I 
hoist my flag on the Victory on Wednesday, and 
we sail at once." 

" No, no ; not so soon ! She cannot be ready 
for sea," said Lady Hamilton, in a wailing voice, 
clasping her hands and turning up her eyes as 
she spoke. 

" She must and she shall be ready," cried 
Nelson, with extraordinary vehemence. *' By 
Heaven ! if the devil stands at the door, I sail 
on Wednesday. Who knows what these rascals 
may be doing in my absence ? It maddens me 
to think of the deviltries which they may be de- 
vising. At this very instant, dear lady, the 
Queen, ou?-- Queen, may be straining her eyes 
for the topsails of Nelson's ships." 

Thinking, as I did, that he was speaking of 
our own old Queen Charlotte, I could make no 
meaning out of this ; but my father told me 
afterwards that both Nelson and Lady Hamilton 
had conceived an extraordinary affection for the 
Queen of Naples, and that it was the interests of 

248 



LORD NELSON 

her little kingdom which he had so strenuously 
at heart. It may have been my expression of 
bewilderment which attracted Nelson's attention 
to me, for he suddenly stopped in his quick 
quarter-deck walk, and looked me up and down 
with a severe eye. 

" Well, young gentleman ! " said he, sharply. 

" This is my only son, sir," said my father. 
" It is my wish that he should join the Service, 
if a berth can be found for him ; for we have all 
been King's officers for many generations." 

*' So, you wish to come and have your bones 
broken ? " cried Nelson, roughly, looking with 
much disfavour at the fine clothes which had 
cost my uncle and JVIr. Brummell such a debate. 
*' You will have to change that grand coat for a 
tarry jacket if you serve under me, sir." 

I was so embarrassed by the abruptness of his 
manner that I could but stammer out that I 
hoped I should do my duty, on which his stern 
mouth relaxed into a good-humoured smile, and 
he laid his little brown hand for an instant upon 
my shoulder. 

" I dare say that you will do very well," said 
he. " I can see that you have the stuff in you. 
But do not imagine that it is a light service 
which you undertake, young gentleman, when 
you enter His JNIajesty's Navy. It is a hard pro- 
fession. You hear of the few who succeed, but 

249 



RODNEY STONE 

what do you know of the hundreds who never 
find their way ? Look at my own luck ! Out 
of 200 who were with me in the San Juan expe- 
dition, 145 died in a single night. I have been 
in 180 engagements, and I have, as you see, lost 
my eye and my arm, and been sorely wounded 
besides. It chanced that I came through, and 
here I am flying my admiral's flag ; but I re- 
member many a man as good as me who did not 
come through. Yes," he added, as her ladyship 
broke in with a voluble protest, " many and 
many as good a man who has gone to the sharks 
or the land-crabs. But it is a useless sailor who 
does not risk himself every day, and the lives of 
all of us are in the hands of Him who best knows 
when to claim them." 

For an instant, in his earnest gaze and reverent 
manner, we seemed to catch a glimpse of the 
deeper, truer Nelson, the man of the Eastern 
counties, steeped in the virile Puritanism which 
sent from that district the Ironsides to fashion 
England within, and the Pilgrim Fathers to 
spread it without. Here was the Nelson who 
declared that he saw the hand of God pressing 
upon the French, and who waited on his knees 
in the cabin of his flag-ship while she bore down 
upon the enemy's line. There was a human ten- 
derness, too, in his way of speaking of his dead 
comrades, which made me understand why it 

250 



LORD NELSON 

was that he was so beloved by all who served 
with him, for, iron-hard as he was as seaman and 
fighter, there ran through his complex nature a 
sweet and un-English power of affectionate emo- 
tion, showing itself in tears if he were moved, 
and in such tender impulses as led him after- 
wards to ask his flag-captain to kiss him as he 
lay dying in the cockpit of the Victoi^y. 

My father had risen to depart, but the admiral, 
with that kindliness which he ever showed to the 
young, and which had been momentarily chilled 
by the unfortunate splendour of my clothes, still 
paced up and down in front of us, shooting out 
crisp little sentences of exhortation and advice. 

" It is ardour that we need in the Service, 
young gentleman," said he. " We need red-hot 
men who will never rest satisfied. We had them 
in the Mediterranean, and we shall have them 
again. There was a band of brothers ! When I 
was asked to recommend one for special service, 
I told the Admiralty they might take the names 
as they came, for the same spirit animated them 
all. Had we taken nineteen vessels, we should 
never have said it was well done while the 
twentieth sailed the seas. You know how it 
was with us, Stone. You are too old a Mediter- 
ranean man for me to tell you anything." 

" I trust, my lord, that I shall be with you 
when next we meet them," said my father. 

17 251 



RODNEY STONE 

" Meet them we shall and must. By Heaven, 
I shall never rest until I have given them a 
shaking. The scoundrel Buonaparte wishes to 
humble us. Let him try, and God help the 
better cause ! " 

He spoke with such extraordinary animation 
that the empty sleeve flapped about in the air, 
giving him the strangest appearance. Seeing 
my eyes fixed upon it, he turned with a smile to 
my father. 

" I can still work my fin. Stone," said he, put- 
ting his hand across to the stump of his arm. 
" What used they to say in the fleet about it ? " 

" That it was a sign, sir, that it was a bad hour 
to cross your hawse." 

" They knew me, the rascals. You can see, 
young gentleman, that not a scrap of the ardour 
with which I serve my country has been shot 
away. Some day you may find that you are 
flying your own flag, and when that time comes 
you may remember that my advice to an officer 
is that he should have nothing to do with tame, 
slow measures. Lay all your stake, and if you 
lose through no fault of your own, the country 
will find you another stake as large. Never 
mind manoeuvres ! Go for them ! The only 
manoeuvre you need is that which will place you 
alongside your enemy. Always fight, and you 

will always be right. Give not a thought to your 

252 



LORD NELSON 

own ease or your own life, for from the day that 
you draw the blue coat over your back you 
have no life of your own. It is the country's, 
to be most freely spent if the smallest gain can 
come from it. How is the wind this morning. 
Stone ? " 

" East-south-east," my father answered, read- 

ay. 

"Then Cornwallis is, doubtless, keeping well 
up to Brest, though, for my own part, I had 
rather tempt them out into the open sea." 

" That is what every officer and man in the 
fleet would prefer, your lordship," said my father. 

"They do not love the blockading service, and it 
is little wonder, since neither money nor honour 
is to be gained at it. You can remember how it 
was in the winter months before Toulon, Stone, 
when we had neither firing, wine, beef, pork, nor 
flour aboard the ships, nor a spare piece of rope, 
canvas, or twine. We braced the old hulks with 
our spare cables, and God knows there was never 
a Levanter that I did not expect it to send us to 
the bottom. But we held our grip all tlie same. 
Yet I fear that we do not get much credit for it 
here in England, Stone, where they hght the 
windows for a great battle, but they do not 
understand that it is easier for us to fight the 
Nile six times over, than to keep our station all 
winter in the blockade. But I pray God that 

253 



RODNEY STONE 

we may meet this new fleet of theirs and settle 
the matter by a pell-mell battle." 

" May I be with you, my lord ! " said my 
father, earnestly. " But we have already taken 
too much of your time, and so I beg to thank 
you for your kindness and to wish you good 
morning." 

" Good morning, Stone ! " said Nelson. " You 
shall have your ship, and if I can make this 
young gentleman one of my officers it shall be 
done. But I gather from his dress," he con- 
tinued, running his eye over me, " that you have 
been more fortunate in prize-money than most of 
your comrades. For my own part, I never did 
nor could turn my thoughts to money-making." 

My father explained that I had been under the 
charge of the famous Sir Charles Tregellis, who 
was my uncle, and with whom I was now re- 
siding. 

" Then you need no help from me," said Nel- 
son, with some bitterness. " If you have either 
guineas or interest you can climb over the heads 
of old sea-officers, though you may not know the 
poop from the galley, or a carronade from a long 

nine. Nevertheless But what the deuce 

have we here ? " 

The footman had suddenly precipitated him- 
self into the room, but stood abashed before the 
fierce glare of the admiral's eye. 

251 



LORD NELSON 

" Your lordship told me to rush to you if it 
should come," he explained, holding out a large 
blue envelope. 

" By Heaven, it is my orders ! " cried Nelson, 
snatching it up and fumbling with it in his awk- 
ward, one-handed attempt to break the seals. 
Lady Hamilton ran to his assistance, but no 
sooner had she glanced at the paper inclosed 
than she burst into a shrill scream, and throwing 
up her hands and her eyes, she sank backwards in a 
swoon. I could not but observe, however, that her 
fall was very carefully executed, and that she 
was fortunate enough, in spite of her insensibihty, 
to arrange her drapery and attitude into a grace- 
ful and classical design. But he, the honest sea- 
man, so incapable of deceit or affectation that he 
could not suspect it in others, ran madly to the 
bell, shouting for the maid, the doctor, and the 
smelling-salts, with incoherent words of grief, 
and such passionate terms of emotion that my 
father thought it more discreet to twitch me by 
the sleeve as a signal that we should steal from 
the room. There we left him then in the dim- 
lit London drawing-room, beside himself with 
pity for this shallow and most artificial woman, 
while without, at the edge of the Piccadilly curb, 
there stood the high dark berline ready to start 
him upon that long journey which was to end in 
his chase of the French fleet over seven thousand 

255 



RODNEY STONE 

miles of ocean, his meeting with it, his victory, 
which confined Napoleon's ambition for ever to 
the land, and his death, coming, as I would it 
might come to all of us, at the crowning moment 
of his hfe. 



256 



CHAPTER XIV 
ON THE ROAD 

And now the day of the great fight began to 
approach. Even the imminent outbreak of war 
and the renewed threats of Napoleon were sec- 
ondary things in the eyes of the sportsmen — and 
the sportsmen in those days made a large half 
of the population. In the club of the patrician 
and the plebeian gin-shop, in the coffee-house of 
the merchant or the barrack of the soldier, in 
London or the provinces, the same question was 
interesting the whole nation. Every west-coun- 
try coach brought up word of the fine condition 
of Crab Wilson, who had returned to his own 
native air for his training, and was known to be 
under the immediate care of Captain Barclay, 
the expert. On the other hand, although my 
uncle had not yet named his man, there was no 
doubt amongst the public that Jim was to be his 
nominee, and the report of his physique and of 
his performance found him many backers. On 
the whole, however, the betting was in favour of 
Wilson, for Bristol and the west country stood 
by him to a man, whilst London opinion was 
divided. Three to two were to be had on Wil- 

257 



RODNEY STONE 

son at any West End club two days before the 
battle. 

I had twice been down to Crawley to see Jim 
in his training quarters, where I found him un- 
dergoing the severe regimen which was usual. 
From early dawn until nightfall he was running, 
jumping, striking a bladder which swung upon a 
bar, or sparring with his formidable trainer. His 
eyes shone and his skin glowed with exuberant 
health, and he was so confident of success that 
my own misgivings vanished as I watched his 
gallant bearing and listened to his quiet and 
cheerful words. 

" But I wonder that you should come and see 
me now, Rodney," said he, when we parted, try- 
ing to laugh as he spoke. " I have become a 
bruiser and your uncle's paid man, whilst you 
are a Corinthian upon town. If you had not 
been the best and truest little gentleman in the 
world, you would have been my patron instead 
of my friend before now." 

When I looked at this splendid fellow, with 
his high-bred, clean-cut face, and thought of the 
fine qualities and gentle, generous impulses 
which I knew to lie within him, it seemed so 
absurd that he should speak as though my 
friendship towards him were a condescension, 
that I could not help laughing aloud. 

" That is all very well, Rodney," said he, look- 

258 



ON THE ROAD 

ing hard into my eyes. " But what does your 
uncle think about it ? " 

This was a poser, and I could only answer 
lamely enough that, much as I was indebted to 
my uncle, I had known Jim first, and that I was 
surely old enough to choose my own friends. 

Jim's misgivings were so far correct that my 
uncle did very strongly object to any intimacy 
between us ; but there were so many other 
points in which he disapproved of my conduct, 
that it made the less difference. I fear that he 
was already disappointed in me. I would not 
develop an eccentricity, although he was good 
enough to point out several by which I might 
*' come out of the ruck," as he expressed it, and 
so catch the attention of the strange world in 
which he Uved. 

" You are an active young fellow, nephew," 
said he. " Do you not think that you could en- 
gage to climb round the furniture of an ordinary 
room without setting foot upon the ground ? 
Some little tour-de-force of the sort is in excel- 
lent taste. There was a captain in the Guards 
who attained considerable social success by doing 
it for a small wager. Lady Lieven, who is 
exceedingly exigeant, used to invite him to her 
evenings merely that he might exhibit it." 

I had to assure him that the feat would be 
beyond me. 

259 



RODNEY STONE 

" You are just a little difficile ^ said he, shrug- 
ging his shoulders. " As my nephew, you might 
have taken your position by perpetuating my 
own delicacy of taste. If you had made bad 
taste your enemy, the world of fashion would 
willingly have looked upon you as an arbiter by 
virtue of your family traditions, and you might 
without a struggle have stepped into the posi- 
tion to which this young upstart Brummell as- 
pires. But you have no instinct in that direc- 
tion. You are incapable of minute attention to 
detail. Look at your shoes ! Look at your 
cravat ! Look at your watch-chain ! Two links 
are enough to show. I have shown three, but it 
was an indiscretion. At this moment I can see 
no less than five of yours. I regret it, nephew, 
but I do not think that you are destined to 
attain that position which I have a right to ex- 
pect from my blood relation." 

" I am sorry to be a disappointment to you, 
sir," said I. 

" It is your misfortune not to have come un- 
der my influence earlier," said he. " I might 
then have moulded you so as to have satisfied 
even my own aspirations. I had a younger 
brother whose case was a similar one. I did 
what I could for him, but he would wear ribbons 
in his shoes, and he publicly mistook white Bur- 
gundy for Rhine wine. Eventually the poor 

260 



ON THE ROAD 

fellow took to books, and lived and died in a 
country vicarage. He was a good man, but he 
was commonplace, and there is no place in so- 
ciety for commonplace people." 

" Then I fear, sir, that there is none for me," 
said I. " But my father has every hope that 
Lord Nelson will find me a position in the fleet. 
If I have been a failure in town, I am none the 
less conscious of your kindness in trying to ad- 
vance my interests, and I hope that, should I 
receive my commission, I may be a credit to you 
yet." 

"It is possible that you may attain the very 
spot which I had marked out for you, but by 
another road," said my uncle. " There are many 
men in town, such as Lord St. Vincent, Lord 
Hood, and others, who move in the most re- 
spectable circles, although they have nothing but 
their services in the Navy to recommend them." 

It was on the afternoon of the day before the 
fight that this conversation took place between 
my uncle and myself in the dainty sanctum of 
his Jermyn- Street house. He was clad, I re- 
member, in his flowing brocade dressing-gown, 
as was his custom before he set off for his club, 
and his foot was extended upon a stool — for 
Abernethy had just been in to treat him for an 
incipient attack of the gout. It may have been 
the pain, or it may have been his disappointment 

261 



RODNEY STONE 

at my career, but his manner was more testy 
than was usual with him, and I fear that there 
was something of a sneer in his smile as he spoke 
of my deficiencies. For my own part I was re- 
lieved at the explanation, for my father had left 
London in the full conviction that a vacancy 
would speedily be found for us both, and the one 
thing which had weighed upon my mind was 
that I might have found it hard to leave my un- 
cle without interfering with the plans which he 
had formed. I was heart- weary of this empty 
life, for which I was so ill-fashioned, and weary 
also of that intolerant talk which would make a 
coterie of frivolous women and foolish fops the 
central point of the universe. Something of my 
uncle's sneer may have flickered upon my lips as 
I heard him allude with supercilious surprise to 
the presence in those sacrosanct circles of the 
men who had stood between the country and de- 
struction. 

" By the way, nephew," said he, " gout or no 
gout, and whether Abernethy likes it or not, we 
must be down at Crawley to-night. The battle 
will take place upon Crawley Downs. Sir Lo- 
thian Hume and his man are at Reigate. I have 
reserved beds at the George for both of us. The 
crush will, it is said, exceed anything ever known. 
The smell of these country inns is always most 
offensive to me — mats que voulez-vous ? Berke- 

262 



ON THE ROAD 

ley Craven was saying in the club last night that 
there is not a bed within twenty miles of Craw- 
ley which is not bespoke, and that they are 
charging three guineas for the night. I hope 
that your young friend, if I must describe him as 
such, will fulfil the promise which he has shown, 
for I have rather more upon the event than I 
care to lose. Sir Lothian has been plunging also 
— he made a single bye-bet of five thousand to 
three upon Wilson in Limmer's yesterday. From 
what I hear of his affairs it will be a serious 
matter for him if we should pull it off. Well, 
Lorimer ? " 

" A person to see you. Sir Charles," said the 
new valet. 

" You know that I never see any one until my 
dressing is complete." 

" He insists upon seeing you, sir. He pushed 
open the door." 

*' Pushed it open ! What d'you mean, Lori- 
mer ? Why didn't you put him out ? " 

A smile passed over the servant's face. At 
the same moment there came a deep voice from 
the passage. 

*' You show me in this instant, young man, 
d'ye 'ear? Let me see your master, or it'll be 
the worse for you." 

I thought that I had heard the voice before, 
but when, over the shoulder of the valet, I caught 

263 



RODNEY STONE 

a glimpse of a large, fleshy, bull-face, with a flat- 
tened Michael Angelo nose in the centre of it, I 
knew at once that it was my neighbour at the 
supper party. 

*' It's Warr, the prize-fighter, sir," said I. 

" Yes, sir," said our visitor, pushing his huge 
form into the room. " It's Bill Warr, landlord 
of the One Tun public-'ouse, Jermyn Street, and 
the gamest man upon the list. There's only one 
thing that ever beat me. Sir Charles, and that 
was my flesh, which creeps over me that amazin' 
fast that I've always got four stone that 'as no 
business there. Why, sir, I've got enough to 
spare to make a feather-weight champion out of. 
You'd 'ardly think, to look at me, that even after 
Mendoza fought me I was able to jump the 
four- foot ropes at the ring- side just as light as 
a little kiddy ; but if I was to chuck my castor 
into the ring now I'd never get it till the wind 
blew it out again, for blow my dicky if I could 
climb after. JNIy respec's to you, young sir, and 
I 'ope I see you weU." 

My uncle's face had expressed considerable 
disgust at this invasion of his privacy, but it was 
part of his position to be on good terms with the 
fighting-men, so he contented himself with ask- 
ing curtly what business had brought him there. 
For answer the huge prize-fighter looked mean- 
ingly at the valet. 

264 



ON THE ROAD 

" It's important, Sir Charles, and between 
man and man," said he. 

" You may go, Lorimer. Now, Warr, what 
is the matter ? " 

The bruiser very calmly seated himself astride 
of a chair with his arms resting upon the back 
of it. 

" I've got information. Sir Charles," said he. 

*' Well, what is it ? " cried my uncle, impa- 
tiently. 

" Information of value." 

" Out with it, then ! " 

" Information that's worth money," said 
Warr, and pursed up his lips. 

" I see. You want to be paid for what you 
know ? " 

The prize-fighter smiled an affirmative. 

"Well, I don't buy things on trust. You 
should know me better than to try on such a 
game with me." 

" I know you for what you are. Sir Charles, 
and that is a noble, slap-up Corinthian. But if 
I was to use this against you, d'ye see, it would 
be worth 'undreds in my pocket. But my 'cart 
won't let me do it, for Bill AYarr's always been 
on the side o' good sport and fair play. If I use 
it for you, then I expect that you won't see me 
the loser." 

*' You can do what you like," said my uncle. 

265 



RODNEY STONE 

"If your news is of service to me, I shall know 
how to treat you." 

" You can't say fairer than that. We'll let it 
stand there, gov'nor, and you'll do the 'andsome 
thing, as you 'ave always 'ad the name for doin'. 
Well, then, your man, Jim 'Arrison, fights Crab 
Wilson, of Gloucester, at Crawley Down to- 
morrow mornin' for a stake." 

" What of that ? " 

" Did you 'appen to know what the bettin' 
was yesterday ? " 

" It was three to two on Wilson." 

" Right you are, gov'nor. Three to two was 
offered in my own bar-parlour. D'you know 
what the bettin' is to-day ? " 

" I have not been out yet." 

" Then I'll tell you. It's seven to one against 
your man." 

" What ? " 

" Seven to one, gov'nor, no less." 

"You're talking nonsense, Warr! How 
could the betting change from three to two to 
seven to one ? " 

" I've been to Tom Owen's, and I've been to 
the 'Ole in the Wall, and I've been to the Waggon 
and 'Orses, and you can get seven to one in any of 
them. There's tons of money being laid against 
your man. It's a 'orse to a 'en in every sportin' 
'ouse and boozin' ken from 'ere to Stepney." 

266 



ON THE ROAD 

For a moment the expression upon my uncle's 
face made me realize that this match was really 
a serious matter to him. Then he shrugged his 
shoulders with an incredulous smile. 

" All the worse for the fools who give the 
odds," said he. " IMy man is all right. You 
saw him yesterday, nephew ? " 

" He was all right yesterday, sir." 

" If anything had gone wrong I should have 
heard." 

" But perhaps," said Warr, " it 'as not gone 
wrong with 'im yet'' 

" What d'you mean ? " 

"I'll tell you what I mean, sir. You remem- 
ber Berks ? You know that 'e ain't to be over- 
much depended on at any time, and that 'e 'ad a 
grudge against your man 'cause 'e laid 'im out in 
the coach- 'ouse. Well, last night about ten 
o'clock in 'e comes into my bar, and the three 
bloodiest rogues in London at 'is 'eels. There 
was Red Ike, 'im that was warned off the ring 
'cause 'e fought a cross with Bittoon ; and there 
was Fightin' Yussef, who would sell 'is mother 
for a seven-shillin'-bit ; the third was Chris Mc- 
Carthy, who is a fogle-snatcher by trade, with 
a pitch outside the 'Aymarket Theatre. You 
don't often see four such beauties together, and 
aU with as much as they could carry, save only 
Chris, who is too leary a cove to drink when 

18 267 



RODNEY STONE 

there's somethin' goin' forward. For my part, I 
showed 'em mto the parlour, not 'cos they was 
worthy of it, but 'cos I knew right well they 
would start bashin' some of my customers, and 
maybe get my license into trouble if I left 'em 
in the bar. I served 'em with drink, and stayed 
with 'em just to see that they didn't lay their 
'ands on the stuffed parroquet and the pictures. 

" Well, gov'nor, to cut it short, they began 
to talk about the fight, and they all laughed at 
the idea that young Jim 'Arrison could win it — 
all except Chris, and 'e kept a-nudging and a- 
twitchin' at the others until Joe Berks nearly 
gave him a wipe across the face for 'is trouble. 
I saw somethin' was in the wind, and it wasn't 
very 'ard to guess what it was — especially when 
Red Ike was ready to put up a fiver that Jim 
'Arrison would never fight at all. So I up to 
get another bottle of liptrap, and I shpped round 
to the shutter that we pass the liquor through 
from the private bar into the parlour. I drew 
it an inch open, and I might 'ave been at the 
table with them, I could 'ear every word that 
clearly. 

" There was Chris McCarthy growhn' at them 
for not keepin' their tongues still, and there was 
Joe Berks swearin' that 'e would knock 'is face 
in if 'e dared give 'im any of 'is lip. So Chris 'e 
sort of argued with them, for 'e was frightened 

268 



ON THE ROAD 

of Berks, and 'e put it to them whether they 
would be fit for the job in the mornin', and 
whether the gov'nor would pay the money if 'e 
found they 'ad been drinkin' and were not to be 
trusted. This struck them sober, all three, an' 
Fighting Yussef asked what time they were to 
start. Chris said that as long as they were at 
Crawley before the George shut up they could 
work it. ' It's poor pay for a chance of a rope,' 
said Red Ike. ' Rope be damned ! ' cried Chris, 
takin' a little loaded stick out of his side pocket. 
* If three of you 'old him down and I break his 
armbone with this, we've earned our money, and 
we don't risk more'n six months' jug.' ' 'E'U 
fight,' said Berks. ' Well, it's the only fight 'e'll 
get,' answered Chris, and that was all I 'card of 
it. This mornin' out I went, and I found as I 
told you afore that the money is goin' on to 
Wilson by the ton, and that no odds are too 
long for the layers. So it stands, gov'nor, and 
you know what the meanin' of it may be better 
than Bill Warr can tell you." 

" Very good, Warr," said my uncle, rising. 
" I am very much obliged to you for telling me 
this, and I will see that you are not a loser by it. 
I put it down as the gossip of drunken ruffians, 
but none the less you have served me vastly by 
calling my attention to it. I suppose I shall see 
you at the Downs to-morrow ? " 

269 



RODNEY STONE 



(( 



Mr. Jackson 'as asked me to be one o' the 
beaters-out, sir." 

" Very good. I hope that we shall have a fair 
and good fight. Good day to you, and thank 
you." 

My uncle had preserved his jaunty demeanour 
as long as Warr was in the room, but the door 
had hardly closed upon him before he turned to 
me with a face which was more agitated than I 
had ever seen it. 

"We must be off for Crawley at once, nephew," 
said he, ringing the bell. "There's not a mo- 
ment to be lost. Lorimer, order the bays to be 
harnessed in the curricle. Put the toilet things 
in, and tell William to have it round at the door 
as soon as possible." 

" I'll see to it, sir," said I, and away I ran to 
the mews in Little Ryder Street, where my 
uncle stabled his horses. The groom was away, 
and I had to send a lad in search of him, while 
with the help of the liveryman I dragged the 
curricle from the coach-house and brought the 
two mares out of their stalls. It was half an 
hour, or possibly three-quarters, before every- 
thing had been found, and Lorimer was already 
waiting in Jermyn Street with the inevitable 
baskets, whilst my uncle stood in the open door 
of his house, clad in his long fawn-coloured driv- 
ing-coat, with no sign upon his calm pale face of 

270 



ON THE ROAD 

the tumult of impatience which must, I was 
sure, be raging within. 

"We shall leave you, Lorimer," said he. "We 
might find it hard to get a bed for you. Keep at 
her head, William ! Jump in, nephew. Halloa, 
Warr, what is the matter now ? " 

The prize-fighter was hastening towards us as 
fast as his bulk would allow. 

" Just one word before you go, Sir Charles," 
he panted. " I've just 'card in my taproom that 
the four men I spoke of left for Crawley at one 
o'clock." 

" Very good, Warr," said my uncle, with his 
foot upon the step. 

" And the odds 'ave risen to ten to one." 

" Let go her head, William ! " 

" Just one more word, gov'nor. You'll excuse 
the liberty, but if I was you I'd take my pistols 
with me." 

" Thank you ; I have them." 

" The long thong cracked between the ears of 
the leader, the groom sprang for the pavement, 
and Jermyn Street had changed for St. James's, 
and that again for Whitehall with a swiftness 
which showed that the gallant mares were as 
impatient as their master. It was half-past four 
by the Parliament clock as we flew on to West- 
minster Bridge. There was the flash of water 
beneath us, and then we were between those 

271 



RODNEY STONE 

two long dun-coloured lines of houses which had 
been the avenue which had led us to London. 
My uncle sat with tightened lips and a brooding 
brow. We had reached Streatham before he 
broke the silence. 

" I have a good deal at stake, nephew," said 
he. 

" So have I, sir," I answered. 

" You ! " he cried, in surprise. 

" My friend, sir." 

" Ah, yes, I had forgot. You have some ec- 
centricities, after all, nephew. You are a faith- 
ful friend, which is a rare enough thing in our 
circles. I never had but one friend of my own 
position, and he — but you've heard me tell the 
story. I fear it will be dark before we reach 
Crawley." 

" I fear that it will." 

" In that case we may be too late." 

" Pray God not, sir ! " 

" We sit behind the best cattle in England, 
but I fear lest we find the roads blocked before 
we get to Crawley. Did you observe, nephew, 
that these four villains spoke in Warr's hearing 
of the master who was behind them, and who 
was paying them for their infamy ? Did you 
not understand that they were hired to cripple 
my man ? Who, then, could have hired them ? 
Who had an interest unless it was I know 

272 



ON THE ROAD 

Sir Lothian Hume to be a desperate man. I 
know that he has had heavy card losses at 
Watier's and White's. I know also that he has 
much at stake upon this event, and that he has 
plunged upon it with a rashness which made his 
friends think that he had some private reason 
for being satisfied as to the result. By Heaven, 

it all hangs together ! If it should be so ! " 

He relapsed into silence, but I saw the same 
look of cold fierceness settle upon his features 
which I had marked there when he and Sir John 
Lade had raced wheel to wheel down the God- 
stone road. 

The sun sank slowly towards the low Surrey 
hills, and the shadows crept steadily eastwards, 
but the whirr of the wheels and the roar of the 
hoofs never slackened. A fresh wind blew upon 
our faces, while the young leaves drooped motion- 
less from the wayside branches. The golden 
edge of the sun was just sinking behind the oaks 
of Reigate Hill when the dripping mares drew 
up before the Crown at Redhill. The landlord, 
an old sportsman and ringsider, ran out to greet 
so well - known a Corinthian as Sir Charles 
Tregellis. 

"You know Berks, the bruiser?" asked my 
uncle. 

Yes, Sir Charles." 

" Has he passed ? " 

273 



(( 



RODNEY STONE 

" Yes, Sir Charles. It may have been about 
four o'clock, though with this crowd of folk and 
carriages it's hard to swear to it. There was 
him, and Red Ike, and Fighting Yussef the Jew, 
and another, with a good bit of blood betwixt 
the shafts. They'd been driving her hard, too, 
for she was all in a lather." 

" That's ugly, nephew," said my uncle, when 
we were flying onwards towards Reigate. " If 
they drove so hard, it looks as though they 
wished to get early to work." 

" Jim and Belcher would surely be a match 
for the four of them," I suggested. 

"If Belcher were with him I should have no 
fear. But you cannot tell what diablerie they 
may be up to. Let us only find him safe and 
sound, and I'll never lose sight of him until I see 
him in the ring. We'll sit up on guard with our 
pistols, nephew, and I only trust that these 
villains may be indiscreet enough to attempt it. 
But they must have been very sure of success 
before they put the odds up to such a figure, and 
it is that which alarms me." 

" But surely they have nothing to win by such 
villainy, sir ? If they were to hurt Jim Harrison 
the battle could not be fought, and the bets 
would not be decided." 

" So it would be in an ordinary prize-battle, 
nephew ; and it is fortunate that it should be so, 

274 



ON THE ROAD 

or the rascals who infest the ring would soon 
make all sport impossible. But here it is differ- 
ent. On the terms of the wager I lose unless I 
can produce a man, within the prescribed ages, 
who can beat Crab Wilson. You must remem- 
ber that I have never named my man. Cest 
dommage, but so it is ! We know who it is and 
so do our opponents, but the referees and stake- 
holder would take no notice of that. If we 
complain that Jim Harrison has been crippled, 
they would answer that they have no official 
knowledge that Jim Harrison was our nominee. 
It's play or pay, and the villains are taking 
advantage of it." 

My uncle's fears as to our being blocked upon 
the road were only too well founded, for after 
we passed Reigate there was such a procession of 
every sort of vehicle, that I believe for the whole 
eight miles there was not a horse whose nose was 
further than a few feet from the back of the cur- 
ricle or barouche in front. Every road leading 
from London, as well as those from Guildford in 
the west and Tunbridge in the east, had contrib- 
uted their stream of four-in-hands, gigs, and 
mounted sportsmen, until the whole broad 
Brighton highway was choked from ditch to 
ditch with a laughing, singing, shouting throng, 
aU flowing in the same direction. No man who 
looked upon that motley crowd could deny that, 

275 



RODNEY STONE 

for good or evil, the love of the ring was confined 
to no class, but was a national peculiarity, deeply 
seated in the English nature, and a common 
heritage of the young aristocrat in his drag and 
of the rough costers sitting six deep in their 
pony cart. There I saw statesmen and soldiers, 
noblemen and lawyers, farmers and squires, with 
roughs of the East End and yokels of the shires, 
all toiling along with the prospect of a night of 
discomfort before them, on the chance of seeing 
a fight which might, for all that they knew, be 
decided in a single round. A more cheery and 
hearty set of people could not be imagined, and 
the chaff flew about as thick as the dust clouds, 
while at every wayside inn the landlord and the 
drawers would be out with trays of foam-headed 
tankards to moisten those importunate throats. 
The ale-drinking, the rude good-fellowship, the 
heartiness, the laughter at discomforts, the crav- 
ing to see the fight — all these may be set down 
as vulgar and trivial by those to whom they are 
distasteful ; but to me, listening to the far-off 
and uncertain echoes of our distant past, they 
seem to have been the very bones upon which 
much that is most solid and virile in this ancient 
race was moulded. 

But, alas for our chance of hastening onwards ! 
Even my uncle's skill could not pick a passage 
through that moving mass. We could but fall 

276 



ON THE ROAD 

into our places and be content to snail along 
from Reigate to Horley and on to Povey Cross 
and over Lowfield Heath, while day shaded 
away into twilight, and that deepened into night. 
At Kimberham Bridge the carriage-lamps were 
all lit, and it was wonderful, where the road 
curved downwards before us, to see this writhing 
serpent with the golden scales crawling before us 
in the darkness. And then, at last, we saw the 
formless mass of the huge Crawley elm looming 
before us in the gloom, and there was the broad 
village street with the glimmer of the cottage 
windows, and the high front of the old George 
Inn, glowing from every door and pane and 
crevice, in honour of the noble company who 
were to sleep within that night. 



277 



CHAPTER XV 
FOUL PLAY 

My uncle's impatience would not suffer him to 
wait for the slow rotation which would bring us 
to the door, but he flung the reins and a crown- 
piece to one of the rough fellows who thronged 
the side- walk, and pushing his way vigorously 
through the crowd, he made for the entrance. 
As he came within the circle of light thrown by 
the windows, a whisper ran round as to who this 
masterful gentleman with the pale face and the 
driving- coat might be, and a lane was formed to 
admit us. I had never before understood the 
popularity of my uncle in the sporting world, for 
the folk began to huzza as we passed with cries 
of " Hurrah for Buck Tregellis ! Good luck to 
you and your man. Sir Charles ! Clear a path 
for a bang-up noble Corinthian ! " whilst the 
landlord, attracted by the shouting, came run- 
ning out to greet us. 

" Good evening, Sir Charles ! " he cried. " I 
hope I see you well, sir, and I trust that you 
will find that your man does credit to the 
George." 

" How is he ? " asked my uncle, quickly. 

278 



FOUL PLAY 

" Never better, sir. Looks a picture, he does 
— and fit to fight for a kingdom." 

My uncle gave a sigh of rehef. 

" Where is he ?" he asked. 

" He's gone to his room early, sir, seein' that 
he had some very partic'lar business to-morrow 
mornin'," said the landlord, grinning. 

"Where is Belcher?" 

" Here he is, in the bar-parlour." 

He opened a door as he spoke, and looking in 
we saw a score of well-dressed men, some of 
whose faces had become familiar to me during 
my short West End career, seated round a table 
upon which stood a steaming soup-tureen filled 
with punch. At the further end, very much at 
his ease amongst the aristocrats and exquisites 
who surrounded him, sat the Champion of Eng- 
land, his superb figure thrown back in his chair, 
a flush upon his handsome face, and a loose red 
handkerchief knotted carelessly round his throat 
in the picturesque fashion which was long known 
by his name. Half a century has passed since 
then, and 1 have seen my share of fine men. 
Perhaps it is because I am a slight creature my- 
self, but it is my pecuUarity that I had rather 
look upon a splendid man than upon any work 
of Nature. Yet during all that time I have 
never seen a finer man than Jim Belcher, and if 
I wish to match him in my memory, I can only 

279 



RODNEY STONE 

turn to that other Jim whose fate and fortunes 
I am trying to lay before you. 

There was a shout of jovial greeting when my 
uncle's face was seen in the doorway. 

" Come in, Tregellis ! " " We were expecting 
you ! " " There's a devilled bladebone ordered." 
*' What's the latest from London ? " " What is 
the meaning of the long odds against your man?" 
" Have the folk gone mad ? " " What the devil 
is it all about ? " They were all talking at once. 

" Excuse me, gentlemen," my uncle answered. 
" I shall be happy to give you any information 
in my power a little later. I have a matter of 
some slight importance to decide. Belcher, I 
would have a word with you ! " 

The Champion came out with us into the 
passage. 

" Where is your man, Belcher ? " 

" He has gone to his room, sir. I believe that 
he should have a clear twelve hours' sleep before 
fighting." 

" What sort of day has he had ? " 

" I did him lightly in the matter of exercise. 
Clubs, dumbbells, walking, and a half-hour with 
the mufflers. He'll do us all proud, sir, or I'm 
a Dutchman ! But what in the world's amiss 
with the betting ? If I didn't know that he was 
as straight as a line, I'd ha' thought he was plan- 
ning a cross and laying against himself." 

280 



FOUL PLAY 

" It's about that I've hurried down. I have 
good information, Belcher, that there has been a 
plot to cripple him, and that the rogues are so 
sure of success that they are prepared to lay 
anything against his appearance." 

Belcher whistled between his teeth. 

" I've seen no sign of anything of the kind, 
sir. No one has been near him or had speech 
with him, except only your nephew there and 
myself." 

" Four villains, with Berks at their head, got 
the start of us by several hours. It was Warr 
who told me." 

*' What Bill Warr says is straight, and what 
Joe Berks does is crooked. Who were the 
others, sir ? " 

"Red Ike, Fighting Yussef, and Chris 
McCarthy." 

" A pretty gang, too ! Well, sir, the lad is 
safe, but it would be as well, perhaps, for one or 
other of us to stay in his room with him. For 
my own part, as long as he's my charge I'm 
never very far away." 

" It is a pity to wake him." 

" He can hardly be asleep with all this racket in 
the house. This way, sir, and down the passage ! '* 

We passed along the low-roofed, devious cor- 
ridors of the old-fashioned inn to the back of 
the house. 

281 



RODNEY STONE 

" This is my room, sir," said Belcher, nodding 
to a door upon the right. " This one upon the 
left is his." He threw it open as he spoke. 
" Here's Sir Charles Tregellis come to see you, 
Jim," said he ; and then, " Good Lord, what is 
the meaning of this ? " 

The little chamber lay before us brightly 
illuminated by a brass lamp which stood upon 
the table. The bed-clothes had not been turned 
down, but there was an indentation upon the 
counterpane which showed that some one had 
lain there. One-half of the lattice window was 
swinging on its hinge, and a cloth cap lying 
upon the table was the only sign of the occu- 
pant. ]My uncle looked round him and shook 
his head. 

" It seems that we are too late," said he. 

" That's his cap, sir. Where in the world can 
he have gone to with his head bare ? I thought 
he was safe in his bed an hour ago. Jim ! Jim ! " 
he shouted. 

" He has certainly gone through the window," 
cried my uncle. " I believe these villains have 
enticed him out by some devilish device of their 
own. Hold the lamp, nephew. Ha ! I thought 
so. Here are his footmarks upon the flower-bed 
outside." 

The landlord, and one or two of the Corinthi- 
ans from the bar-parlour, had followed us to the 

282 



FOUL PLAY 

back of the house. Some one had opened the 
side door, and we found ourselves in the kitchen 
garden, where, clustering upon the gravel path, 
we were able to hold the lamp over the soft, 
newly turned earth which lay between us and 
the window. 

" That's his footmark ! " said Belcher. " He 
wore his running boots this evening, and you can 
see the nails. But what's this ? Some one else 
has been here." 

" A woman ! " I cried. 

" By Heaven, you're right, nephew," said my 
uncle. Belcher gave a hearty curse. 

" He never had a word to say to any girl in 
the village. I took partic'lar notice of that. 
And to think of them coming in like this at the 
last moment I " 

" It's clear as possible, Tregellis," said the Hon. 
Berkeley Craven, who was one of the company 
from the bar-parlour. " Whoever it was came 
outside the window and tapped. You see here, 
and here, the small feet have their toes to the 
house, while the others are all leading away. 
She came to summon him, and he followed her." 

" That is perfectly certain," said my uncle. 

" There's not a moment to be lost. We must 

divide and search in different directions, unless 

we can get some clue as to where they have 

gone." 

19 283 



RODNEY STONE 

" There's only the one path out of the garden," 
cried the landlord, leading the way. " It opens 
out into this back lane, which leads up to the 
stables. The other end of the lane goes out into 
the side road." 

The bright yellow glare from a stable lantern 
cut a ring suddenly from the darkness, and an 
ostler came lounging out of the yard. 

" Who's that ? " cried the landlord. 

" It's me, master ! Bill Shields." 

" How long have you been there. Bill ? " 

"Well, master, I've been in an' out of the 
stables this hour back. We can't pack in another 
'orse, and there's no use tryin'. I daren't 'ardly 
give them their feed, for, if they was to thicken 
out just ever so little " 

" See here. Bill. Be careful how you answer, 
for a mistake may cost you your place. Have 
you seen any one pass down the lane ? " 

" There was a feller in a rabbit-skin cap some 
time ago. 'E was loiterin' about until I asked 
'im what 'is business was, for I didn't care about 
the looks of 'im, or the way that 'e was peepin' 
in at the windows. I turned the stable lantern 
on to 'im, but 'e ducked 'is face, an' I could only 
swear to 'is red 'ead." 

I cast a quick glance at my uncle, and I saw 
that the shadow had deepened upon his face. 

" What became of him ? " he asked. 

284 



FOUL PLAY 

" 'E slouched away, sir, an' I saw the last of 
im. 

" You've seen no one else ? You didn't, for 
example, see a woman and a man pass down the 
lane together ? " 

" No, sir." 

" Or hear anything unusual ? " 

*' Why, now that you mention it, sir, I did 
'ear somethin' ; but on a night like this, when all 
these London blades are in the village " 

" What was it, then ? " cried my uncle, im- 
patiently. 

" Well, sir, it was a kind of a cry out yonder 
as if some one 'ad got 'imself into trouble. I 
thought, maybe, two sparks were fightin', and I 
took no partic'lar notice." 

" Where did it come from ? " 

" From the side road, yonder." 

" Was it distant ? " 

" No, sir ; I should say it didn't come from 
more'n two hundred yards." 

" A single cry ? " 

" Well, it was a kind of screech, sir, and then 
I 'eard somebody drivin' very 'ard down the road. 
I remember thinking that it was strange that any 
one should be driving away from Crawley on a 
great night like this." 

My uncle seized the lantern from the fellow's 

hand, and we all trooped behind him down the 

285 



RODNEY STONE 

lane. At the further end the road cut it across 
at right angles. Down this my uncle hastened, 
but his search was not a long one, for the glar- 
ing light fell suddenly upon something which 
brought a groan to my Hps and a bitter curse to 
those of Jem Belcher. Along the white surface 
of the dusty highway there was drawn a long 
smear of crimson, while beside this ominous stain 
there lay a murderous little pocket- bludgeon, 
such as Warr had described in the morning. 



286 



CHAPTER XVI 
CRAWLEY DOWNS 

All through that weary night my uncle and I, 
with Belcher, Berkeley Craven, and a dozen of 
the Corinthians, searched the country-side for 
some trace of our missing man, but save for that 
ill-boding splash upon the road not the slightest 
clue could be obtained as to what had befallen 
him. No one had seen or heard anything of 
him, and the single cry in the night of which the 
ostler told us was the only indication of the 
tragedy which had taken place. In small parties 
we scoured the country as far as East Grinstead 
and Bletchingley, and the sun had been long over 
the horizon before we found ourselves back at 
Crawley once more with heavy hearts and tired 
feet. My uncle, who had driven to Reigate in 
the hope of gaining some intelligence, did not 
return until past seven o'clock, and a glance at 
his face gave us the same black news which he 
gathered from ours. 

We held a council round our dismal breakfast- 
table, to which Mr. Berkeley Craven was invited 
as a man of sound wisdom and large experience 

in matters of sport. Belcher was half frenzied 

287 



RODNEY STONE 

by this sudden ending of all the pains which he 
had taken in the training, and could only rave 
out threats at Berks and his companions, with 
terrible menaces as to what he would do when he 
met them. My uncle sat grave and thoughtful, 
eating nothing and drumming his fingers upon 
the table, while my heart was heavy within me, 
and I could have sunk my face into my hands and 
burst into tears as I thought how powerless I 
was to aid my friend. Mr. Craven, a fresh-faced, 
alert man of the world, was the only one of us 
who seemed to preserve both his wits and his 
appetite. 

" Let me see ! The fight was to be at ten, 
was it not ? " he asked. 

" It was to be." 

" I dare say it will be, too. Never say die, 
Tregellis ! Your man has still three hours in 
which to come back." 

My uncle shook his head. 

" The villains have done their work too well 
for that, I fear," said he. 

" Well, now, let us reason it out," said Berkeley 
Craven. " A woman comes and she coaxes this 
young man out of his room. Do you know 
any young woman who had an influence over 
him ? " 

My uncle looked at me. 

" No," said I. " I know of none." 

288 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

" Well, we know that she came," said Berk- 
eley Craven. " There can be no question as to 
that. She brought some piteous tale, no doubt, 
such as a gallant young man could hardly refuse 
to listen to. He fell into the trap, and allowed 
himself to be decoyed to the place where these 
rascals were waiting for him. We may take all 
that as proved, I should fancy, Tregellis." 

" I see no better explanation," said my uncle. 

" Well, then, it is obviously not the interest of 
these men to kill him. Warr heard them say as 
much. They could not make sure, perhaps, of 
doing so tough a young fellow an injury which 
would certainly prevent him from fighting. Even 
with a broken arm he might pull the fight off, as 
men have done before. There was too much 
money on for them to run any risks. They gave 
him a tap on the head, therefore, to prevent his 
making too much resistance, and they then drove 
him off to some farmhouse or stable, where they 
will hold him a prisoner until the time for the 
fight is over. I warrant that you see him be- 
fore to-night as well as ever he was." 

This theory sounded so reasonable that it 
seemed to lift a httle of the weight from my 
heart, but I could see that from my uncle's point 
of view it was a poor consolation. 

" I dare say you are right, Craven,"> said he. 

" I am sure that I am." 

28-9 



RODNEY STONE 

" But it won't help us to win the fight." 

" That's the point, sir," cried Belcher. " By 
the Lord, I wish they'd let me take his place, 
even with my left arm strapped behind me." 

" I should advise you in any case to go to the 
ring-side," said Craven. "You should hold on 
until the last moment in the hope of your man 
turning up." 

" I shall certainly do so. And I shall protest 
against paying the wagers under such circum- 
stances." 

Craven shrugged his shoulders. 

" You remember the conditions of the match," 
said he. " I fear it is pay or play. No doubt 
the point might be submitted to the referees, but 
I cannot doubt that they would have to give it 
against you." 

We had sunk into a melancholy silence, when 
suddenly Belcher sprang up from the table. 

" Hark ! " he cried. " Listen to that ! " 

" What is it ? " we cried, all three. 

" The betting ! Listen again ! " 

Out of the babel of voices and roaring of wheels 
outside the window a single sentence struck sharp- 
ly on our ears. 

*' Even money upon Sir Charles's nominee ! " 

" Even money ! " cried my uncle. " It was 
seven to one against me, yesterday. What is 
the meaning of this ? " 

290 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

" Even money either way," cried the voice 
again. 

"There's somebody knows something," said 
Belcher, " and there's nobody has a better right 
to know what it is than we. Come on, sir, and 
we'll get to the bottom of it." 

The village street was packed with people, for 
they had been sleeping twelve and fifteen in a 
room, whilst hundreds of gentlemen had spent 
the night in their carriages. So thick was tlie 
throng that it was no easy matter to get out 
of the George. A drunken man, snoring hor- 
ribly in his breathing, was curled up in the 
passage, absolutely oblivious to the stream of 
people who flowed round and occasionally over 
him. 

" What's the betting, boys ? " asked Belcher, 
from the steps. 

" Even money, Jim," cried several voices. 

" It was long odds on Wilson when last I 
heard." 

" Yes ; but there came a man who laid freely 
the other way, and he started others taking the 
odds, until now you can get even money." 

" Who started it ? " 

" Why, that's he ! The man that lies drunk 
in the passage. He's been pouring it down like 
water ever since he drove in at six o'clock, so it's 
no wonder he's like that." 

291 



RODNEY STONE 

Belcher stooped down and turned over the 
man's inert head so as to show his features. 

" He's a stranger to me, sir." 

" And to me," added my uncle. 

" But not to me," I cried, " It's John Gum- 
ming, the landlord of the inn at Friar's Oak. 
I've known him ever since I was a boy, and I 
can't be mistaken." 

" Well, what the devil can he know about it ? " 
said Craven. 

" Nothing at all, in all probability," answered 
my uncle. " He is backing young Jim because 
he knows him, and because he has more brandy 
than sense. His drunken confidence set others 
to do the same, and so the odds came down." 

" He was as sober as a judge when he drove 
in here this morning," said the landlord. " He 
began backing Sir Charles's nominee from the 
moment he arrived. Some of the other boys 
took the office from him, and they very soon 
brought the odds down amongst them." 

" I wish he had not brought himself down as 
well," said my uncle. " I beg that you will bring 
me a little lavender water, landlord, for the smell 
of this crowd is appalling. I suppose you could 
not get any sense from this drunken fellow, 
nephew, or find out what it is he knows." 

It was in vain that I rocked him by the shoul- 
der and shouted his name in his ear. Noth- 

292 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

ing could break in upon that serene intoxi- 
cation. 

" Well, it's a unique situation as far as my 
experience goes," said Berkeley Craven. " Here 
we are within a couple of hours of the fight, and 
yet you don't know whether you have a man to 
represent you. I hope you don't stand to lose 
very much, Tregellis." 

My uncle shrugged his shoulders carelessly, 
and took a pinch of his snuff with that inimitable 
sweeping gesture which no man has ever vent- 
ured to imitate. 

" Pretty well, my boy ! " said he. " But it is 
time that we thought of going up to the Downs. 
This night journey has left me just a httle ef- 
fleurc, and I should like half an hour of privacy 
to arrange my toilet. If this is my last kick, it 
shall at least be with a well-brushed boot." 

I have heard a traveller from the wilds of 
America say that he looked upon the Red Ind- 
ian and the English gentleman as closely akin, 
citing the passion for sport, the aloofness and 
the suppression of the emotions in each. I 
thought of his words as I watched my uncle 
that morning, for I beheve that no victim tied 
to the stake could have had a worse outlook be- 
fore him. It was not merely that his own fort- 
unes were largely at stake, but it was the dread- 
ful position in which he would stand before this 

293 



RODNEY STONE 

immense concourse of people, many of whom 
had put their money upon his judgment, if he 
should find himself at the last moment with an 
impotent excuse instead of a champion to put 
before them. What a situation for a man who 
prided himself upon his aplomb, and upon bring- 
ing all that he undertook to the very highest 
standard of success ! I, who knew him well, 
could tell from his wan cheeks and his restless 
fingers that he was at his wit's ends what to do ; 
but no stranger who observed his jaunty bearing, 
the flecking of his lace handkerchief, the hand- 
ling of his quizzing glass, or the shooting of his 
ruffles, would ever have thought that this butter- 
fly creature could have had a care upon earth. 

It was close upon nine o'clock when we were 
ready to start for the Downs, and by that time 
my uncle's curricle was almost the only vehicle 
left in the village street. The night before they 
had lain with their wheels interlocking and their 
shafts under each other's bodies, as thick as they 
could fit, from the old church to the Crawley 
Elm, spanning the road five-deep for a good 
half-mile in length. Now the grey viUage street 
lay before us almost deserted save by a few 
women and children. Men, horses, carriages — 
all were gone. My uncle drew on his driving- 
gloves and arranged his costume with punctilious 
neatness ; but I observed that he glanced up and 

294 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

down the road with a haggard and yet expectant 
eye before he took his seat. I sat behind with 
Belcher, while the Hon. Berkeley Craven took 
the place beside him. 

The road from Crawley curves gently upwards 
to the upland heather- clad plateau which extends 
for many miles in every direction. Strings of 
pedestrians, most of them so weary and dust- 
covered that it was evident that they had walked 
the thirty miles from London during the night, 
were plodding along by the sides of the road 
or trailing over the long mottled slopes of the 
moorland. A horseman, fantastically dressed in 
green and splendidly mounted, was waiting at 
the cross-roads, and as he spurred towards us I 
recognized the dark, handsome face and bold 
black eyes of Mendoza. 

" I am waiting here to give the office. Sir 
Charles," said he. " It's down the Grinstead 
road, half a mile to the left." 

" Very good," said my uncle, reining his mares 
round into the cross-road. 

" You haven't got your man there," remarked 
Mendoza, with something of suspicion in his 
manner. 

" What the devil is that to you ? " cried 
Belcher, furiously. 

" It's a good deal to all of us, for there are 

some funny stories about." 

295 



RODNEY STONE 

" You keep them to yourself, then, or you 
may wish you had never heard them." 

" All right, Jem ! Your breakfast don't seem 
to have agreed with you this morning." 

" Have the others arrived ? " asked my uncle, 
carelessly. 

" Not yet, Sir Charles. But Tom OHver is 
there with the ropes and stakes. Jackson drove 
by just now, and most of the ring-keepers are 
up. 

" We have still an hour," remarked my uncle, 
as he drove on. "It is possible that the others 
may be late, since they have to come from Rei- 
gate." 

"You take it like a man, Tregellis," said 
Craven. 

" We must keep a bold face and brazen it out 
until the last moment." 

" Of course, sir," cried Belcher. "I'll never 
believe the betting would rise like that if some- 
body didn't know something. We'll hold on by 
our teeth and nails, Sir Charles, and see what 
comes of it." 

We could hear a sound like the waves upon 
the beach, long before we came in sight of that 
mighty multitude, and then at last, on a sudden 
dip of the road, we saw it lying before us, a 
whirlpool of humanity with an open vortex in 
the centre. AU round, the thousands of car- 

296 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

riages and horses were dotted over the moor, and 
the slopes were gay with tents and booths. A 
spot had been chosen for the ring, where a great 
basin had been hollowed out in the ground, so 
that all round that natural amphitheatre a crowd 
of thirty thousand people could see very well 
what was going on in the centre. As we drove 
up a buzz of greeting came from the people upon 
the fringe which was nearest to us, spreading and 
spreading, until the whole multitude had joined 
in the acclamation. Then an instant later a 
second shout broke forth, beginning from the 
other side of the arena, and the faces which had 
been turned towards us whisked round, so that 
in a twinkling the whole foreground changed 
from white to dark. 

" It's they. They are in time," said my uncle 
and Craven together. 

Standing up on our curricle, we could see 
the cavalcade approaching over the Downs. In 
front came a huge yellow barouche, in which sat 
Sir I^othian Hume, Crab Wilson, and Captain 
Barclay, his trainer. The postilions were flying 
canary-yellow ribands from their caps, those 
being the colours under which Wilson was to 
fight. Behind the carriage there rode a hundred 
or more noblemen and gentlemen of the west 
country, and then a line of gigs, tilburies, and 
carriages wound away down the Grinstead road 

297 



RODNEY STONE 

as far as our eyes could follow it. The big 
barouche came lumbering over the sward in our 
direction until Sir Lothian Hume caught sight 
of us, when he shouted to his postilions to 
pull up. 

" Good morning, Sir Charles," said he, spring- 
ing out of the carriage. " I thought I knew 
your scarlet curricle. We have an excellent 
morning for the battle." 

My uncle bowed coldly, and made no answer. 

" I suppose that since we are all here we may 
begin at once," said Sir Lothian, taking no notice 
of the other's manner. 

" We begin at ten o'clock. Not an instant 
before." 

" Very good, if you prefer it. By the way, 
Sir Charles, where is your man ? " 

" I would ask you that question, Sir Lothian," 
answered my uncle. " Where is my man ? " 

A look of astonishment passed over Sir Lo- 
thian's features, which, if it were not real, was 
most admirably affected. 

" What do you mean by asking me such a 
question ? " 

" Because I wish to know." 

" But how can I tell, and what business is it 
of mine ? " 

" I have reason to believe that you have made 
it your business." 

298 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

"If you would kindly put the matter a little 
more clearly there would be some possibility of 
my understanding you." 

They were both very white and cold, formal 
and unimpassioned in their bearing, but exchang- 
ing glances which crossed like rapier blades. I 
thought of Sir Lothian's murderous repute as a 
duellist, and 1 trembled for my uncle. 

" Now, sir, if you imagine that you have a 
grievance against me, you will oblige me vastly 
by putting it into words." 

" I will," said my uncle. " There has been a 
conspiracy to maim or kidnap my man, and I 
have every reason to believe that you are privy 
to it." 

An ugly sneer came over Sir Lothian's satur- 
nine face. 

"I see," said he. "Your man has not come 
on quite as well as you had expected in his train- 
ing, and you are hard put to it to invent an 
excuse. Still, I should have thought that you 
might have found a more probable one, and one 
which would entail less serious consequences." 

" Sir," answered my uncle, " you are a liar, 
but how great a liar you are nobody knows save 
yourself. " 

Sir Lothian's hollow cheeks grew white with 
passion, and I saw for an instant in his deep-set 
eyes such a glare as comes from the frenzied 

20 299 



RODNEY STONE 

hound rearing and ramping at the end of its 
chain. Then, with an effort, he became the 
same cold, hard, self-contained man as ever. 

"It does not become our position to quarrel 
like two yokels at a fair," said he ; " we shall go 
further into the matter afterwards." 

" I promise you that we shall," answered my 
uncle, grimly. 

" Meanwhile, I hold you to the terms of your 
wager. Unless you produce your nominee within 
five-and-twenty minutes, I claim the match." 

" Eight-and- twenty minutes," said my uncle, 
looking at his watch. " You may claim it then, 
but not an instant before." 

He was admirable at that moment, for his 
manner was that of a man with all sorts of 
hidden resources, so that I could hardly make 
myself realize as I looked at him that our posi- 
tion was really as desperate as I knew it to be. 
In the meantime Berkeley Craven, who had been 
exchanging a few words with Sir Lothian Hume, 
came back to our side. 

" I have been asked to be sole referee in this 
matter," said he. " Does that meet with your 
wishes. Sir Charles ? " 

" I should be vastly obhged to you. Craven, if 
you will undertake the duties." 

" And Jackson has been suggested as time- 
keeper." 

300 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

" I could not wish a better one." 

" Very good. Tliat is settled." 

In the meantime the last of the carriages had 
come up, and the horses had all been picketed 
upon the moor. The stragglers who had dotted 
the grass had closed in until the huge crowd 
was one unit with a single mighty voice, which 
was already beginning to bellow its impatience. 
Looking round, there was hardly a moving ob- 
ject upon the whole vast expanse of green and 
purple down. A belated gig was coming at full 
gallop down the road which led from the south, 
and a few pedestrians were still trailing up from 
Crawley, but nowhere was there a sign of the 
missing man. 

" The betting keeps up for all that," said 
Belcher. " I've just been to the ring-side, and 
it is still even." 

" There's a place for you at the outer ropes, 
Sir Charles," said Craven. 

*' There is no sign of my man yet. I won't 
come in until he arrives." 

" It is my duty to tell you that only ten min- 
utes are left." 

" I make it five," cried Sir Lothian Hume. 

" That is a question which lies with the ref- 
eree," said Craven, fii-mly. " My watch makes 
it ten minutes, and ten it must be." 

" Here's Crab Wilson ! " cried Belcher, and at 

301 



RODNEY STONE 

the same moment a shout Hke a thunderclap 
burst from the crowd. The west- countryman 
had emerged from his dressing-tent, followed by 
Dutch Sam and Tom Owen, who were acting 
as his seconds. He was nude to the waist, with 
a pair of white caUco drawers, white silk stock- 
ings, and running shoes. Round his middle was 
a canary-yellow sash, and dainty little ribbons of 
the same colour fluttered from the sides of his 
knees. He carried a high white hat in his hand, 
and running down the lane which had been kept 
open through the crowd to allow persons to reach 
the ring, he threw the hat high into the air, so 
that it fell within the staked enclosure. Then 
with a double spring he cleared the outer and 
inner line of rope, and stood with his arms folded 
in the centre. 

I do not wonder that the people cheered. 
Even Belcher could not help joining in the 
general shout of applause. He was certainly a 
splendidly built young athlete, and one could 
not have wished to look upon a finer sight as his 
white skin, sleek and luminous as a panther's, 
gleamed in the hght of the morning sun, with 
a beautiful liquid rippling of muscles at every 
movement. His arms were long and slingy, his 
shoulders loose and yet powerful, with the do^\Ti- 
ward slant which is a surer index of power than 
squareness can be. He clasped his hands behind 

302 



CRAWLEY DOWNS 

his head, threw them aloft, and swung them 
backwards, and at every movement some fresh 
expanse of his smooth, white skin became 
knobbed and gnarled with muscles, whilst a 
yell of admiration and delight from the crowd 
greeted each fresh exhibition. Then, folding his 
arms once more, he stood like a beautiful statue 
waiting for his antagonist. 

Sir Lothian Hume had been looking impa- 
tiently at his watch, and now he shut it with a 
triumphant snap. 

" Time's up ! " he cried. " The match is for- 
feit." 

" Time is not up," said Craven. 

" I have still five minutes." My uncle looked 
round with despairing eyes. 

" Only three, Tregellis ! " 

A deep angry murmur was rising from the 
crowd. " It's a cross ! It's a cross ! It's a 
fake ! " was the cry. 

" Two minutes, Tregellis ! " 

" Where's your man. Sir Charles ? Where's 
the man that we have backed ? " Flushed faces 
began to crane over each other, and angry eyes 
glared up at us. 

" One more minute, TregelHs ! I am very 
sorry, but it will be my duty to declare it forfeit 
against you." 

There was a sudden swirl in the crowd, a rush, 

303 



RODNEY STONE 

a shout, and high up in the air there spun an old 
black hat, floating over the heads of the ring- 
siders and flickering down within the ropes. 

" Saved, by the Lord ! " screamed Belcher. 

" I rather fancy," said my uncle, calmly, " that 
this must be my man." 

" Too late ! " cried Sir I^othian. 

" No," answered the referee. " It was still 
twenty seconds to the hour. The fight will 
now proceed." 



304 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE RING-SIDE 

Out of the whole of that vast multitude I was 
one of the very few who had observed whence it 
was that this black hat, skimming so opportunely 
over the ropes, had come. I have already re- 
marked that when we looked around us there 
had been a single gig travelling very rapidly 
upon the southern road. My uncle's eyes had 
rested upon it, but his attention had been drawn 
away by the discussion between Sir T^othian 
Hume and the referee upon the question of 
time. For my own part, I had been so struck 
by the furious manner in which these belated 
travellers were approaching, that I had contin- 
ued to watch them with all sorts of vague hopes 
within me, which T did not dare to put into 
words for fear of adding to my uncle's disap- 
pointments. I had just made out that the gig 
contained a man and a woman, when suddenly I 
saw it swerve off the road, and come with a gal- 
loping horse and bounding wheels right across 
the moor, crashing through the gorse bushes, 
and sinking down to the hubs in the heather 
and bracken. As the driver pulled up his foam- 

305 



RODNEY STONE 

spattered horse, he threw the reins to his com- 
panion, sprang from his seat, butted furiously 
into the crowd, and then an instant afterwards 
up went the hat which told of his challenge and 
defiance. 

" There is no hurry now, I presume, Craven," 
said my uncle, as coolly as if this sudden effect 
had been carefully devised by him. 

" Now that your man has his hat in the ring 
you can take as much time as you like. Sir 
Charles." 

" Your friend has certainly cut it rather fine, 
nephew." 

" It is not Jim, sir," I whispered. " It is 
some one else." 

My uncle's eyebrows betrayed his astonish- 
ment. 

" Some one else! " he ejaculated. 

" And a good man too ! " roared Belcher, slap- 
ping his thigh with a crack like a pistol-shot. 
" Why, blow my dickey if it ain't old Jack 
Harrison himself ! " 

Looking down at the crowd, we had seen the 
head and shoulders of a powerful and strenuous 
man moving slowly forward, and leaving behind 
him a long V-shaped ripple upon its surface like 
the wake of a swimming dog. Now, as he 
pushed his way through the looser fringe the 
head was raised, and there was the grinning, 

306 



THE RING-SIDE 

hardy face of the smith looking up at us. He 
had left his hat in the ring, and was enveloped 
in an overcoat with a blue bird's-eye handker- 
chief tied round his neck. As he emerged from 
the throng he let his great-coat fly loose, and 
showed that he was dressed in his full fighting 
kit — black drawers, chocolate stockings, and 
white shoes. 

" I'm right sorry to be so late. Sir Charles," he 
cried. " I'd have been sooner, but it took me a 
little time to make it all straight with the missus. 
I couldn't convince her all at once, an' so I 
brought her with me, and we argued it out on 
the way." 

Looking at the gig, I saw that it was indeed 
Mrs. Harrison who was seated in it. Sir Charles 
beckoned him up to the wheel of the curricle. 

" What in the world brings you here, Harri- 
son ? " he whispered. " I am as glad to see you 
as ever I was to see a man in my life, but I con- 
fess that I did not expect you." 

" Well, sir, you heard I was coming," said the 
smith. 

" Indeed, I did not." 

" Didn't you get a message, Sir Charles, from 
a man named Cumming, landlord of the Friar's 
Oak Inn ? " Mister Rodney there would know 
him." 

" We saw him dead drunk at the George." 

307 



RODNEY STONE 

" There, now, if I wasn't afraid of it ! " cried 
Harrison, angrily. " He's always like that when 
he's excited, and I never saw a man more off his 
head than he was when he heard I was going to 
take this job over. He brought a bag of sover- 
eigns up with him to back me with." 

" That's how the betting got turned," said my 
uncle. " He found others to follow his lead, it 
appears." 

" I was so afraid that he might get upon the 
drink that I made him promise to go straight to 
you, sir, the very instant he should arrive. He 
had a note to deliver." 

" I understand that he reached the George at 
six, whilst I did not return from Reigate until 
after seven, by which time I have no doubt that 
he had drunk his message to me out of his head. 
But where is your nephew Jim, and how did you 
come to know that you would be needed ? " 

" It is not his fault, I promise you, that you 
should be left in the lurch. As to me, I had 
my orders to take his place from the only man 
upon earth whose word I have never dis- 
obeyed." 

"Yes, Sir Charles," said Mrs. Harrison, who 
had left the gig and approached us. " You can 
make the most of it this time, for never again 
shall you have my Jack — not if you were to go 
on your knees for him. " 

308 



THE RING-SIDE 

" She's not a patron of sport, and that's a fact," 
said the smith. 

" Sport ! " she cried, with shrill contempt and 
anger. " Tell me when all is over." 

She hurried away, and I saw her afterwards 
seated amongst the bracken, her back turned 
towards the multitude, and her hands over her 
ears, cowering and wincing in an agony of appre- 
hension. 

Whilst this hurried scene had been taking 
place, the crowd had become more and more 
tumultuous, partly from their impatience at the 
delay, and partly from their exuberant spirits at 
the unexpected chance of seeing so celebrated a 
fighting-man as Harrison. His identity had 
already been noised abroad, and many an elderly 
connoisseur plucked his long net-purse out of his 
fob, in order to put a few guineas upon the man 
who would represent the school of the past 
against the present. The younger men were 
still in favour of the west-countryman, and small 
odds were to be had either way in proportion to 
the number of the supporters of each in the dif- 
ferent parts of the crowd. 

In the meantime Sir Lothian Hume had 
come bustling up to the Honourable Berkeley 
Craven, who was still standing near our curricle. 

" I beg to lodge a formal protest against these 
proceedings," said he. 

309 



RODNEY STONE 

" On what grounds, sir ? " 

" Because the man produced is not the origi- 
nal nominee of Sir Charles Tregellis." 

" I never named one, as you are well aware," 
said my uncle. 

" The betting has all been upon the under- 
standing that young Jim Harrison was my 
man's opponent. Now, at the last moment, he 
is withdrawn and another and more formidable 
man put into his place." 

" Sir Charles Tregellis is quite within his rights," 
said Craven, firmly. " He undertook to produce 
a man who should be within the age limits stip- 
ulated, and I understand that Harrison fulfils all 
the conditions. You are over five-and-thirty, 
Harrison ? " 

" Forty-one next month, master." 

" Very good. I direct that the fight pro- 
ceed." 

But alas ! there was one authority which was 
higher even than that of the referee, and we 
were destined to an experience which was the 
prelude, and sometimes the conclusion, also, of 
many an old-time fight. Across the moor there 
had ridden a black-coated gentleman, with buff- 
topped hunting-boots and a couple of grooms 
behind him, the little knot of horsemen showing 
up clearly upon the curving swells and then 
dipping down into the alternate hollows. Some 

310 



THE RING-SIDE 

of the more observant of the crowd had glanced 
suspiciously at this advancing figure, but the 
majority had not observed him at all until he 
reined up his horse upon a knoll which over- 
looked the amphitheatre, and in a stentorian 
voice announced that he represented the Custos 
rotulorum of His Majesty's county of Sussex, 
that he proclaimed this assembly to be gathered 
together for an illegal purpose, and that he was 
commissioned to disperse it by force, if neces- 
sary. 

Never before had I understood that deep- 
seated fear and wholesome respect which many 
centuries of bludgeoning at the hands of the law 
had beaten into the fierce and turbulent natives 
of these islands. Here was a man with two at- 
tendants upon one side, and on the other thirty 
thousand very angry and disappointed people, 
many of them fighters by profession, and some 
from the roughest and most dangerous classes in 
the country. And yet it was the single man 
who appealed confidently to force, whilst the 
huge multitude swayed and murmured hke a 
mutinous fierce- willed creature brought face to 
face with a power against which it knew that 
there was neither argument nor resistance. My 
uncle, however, with Berkeley Craven, Sir John 
Lade, and a dozen other lords and gentlemen, 
hurried across to the interrupter of the sport. 

311 



RODNEY STONE 

" I presume that you have a warrant, sir ? " 
said Craven. 

" Yes, sir, 1 have a warrant." 

*' Then I have a legal right to inspect it." 

The magistrate handed him a blue paper 
which the little knot of gentlemen clustered 
their heads over, for they were mostly magis- 
trates themselves, and were keenly alive to any 
possible flaw in the wording. At last Craven 
shrugged his shoulders, and handed it back. 

" This seems to be correct, sir," said he. 

" It is entirely correct," answered the magis- 
trate, affably. " To prevent waste of your valu- 
able time, gentlemen, I may say, once for all, 
that it is my unalterable determination that no 
fight shall, under any circumstances, be brought 
off in the county over which I have control, and 
I am prepared to follow you all day in order to 
prevent it." 

To my inexperience this appeared to bring the 
whole matter to a conclusion, but I had under- 
rated the foresight of those who arrange these 
affairs, and also the advantages which made 
Crawley Down so favourite a rendezvous. 
There was a hurried consultation between the 
principals, the backers, the referee, and the time- 
keeper. 

" It's seven miles to Hampshire border and 
about two to Surrey," said Jackson. The fa- 

312 



THE RING-SIDE 

mous Master of the Ring was clad in honour of 
the occasion in a most resplendent scarlet coat 
worked in gold at the buttonholes, a white 
stock, a looped hat with a broad black band, 
buff knee-breeches, white silk stockings, and 
paste buckles — a costume which did justice to 
his magnificent figure, and especially to those 
famous " balustrade " calves which had helped 
him to be the finest runner and jumper as well 
as the most formidable pugihst in England. 
His hard, high-boned face, large piercing eyes, 
and immense physique made him a fitting leader 
for that rough and tumultuous body who had 
named him as their commander-in-chief. 

" If I might venture to offer you a word of 
advice," said the affable official, " it would be to 
make for the Hampshire line, for Sir James 
Ford, on the Surrey border, has as great an ob- 
jection to such assemblies as I have, whilst JNIr. 
Merridew, of Long Hall, who is the Hampshire 
magistrate, has fewer scruples upon the point." 

" Sir," said my uncle, raising his hat in his 
most impressive manner, " I am infinitely obliged 
to you. With the referee's permission, there is 
nothing for it but to shift the stakes." 

In an instant a scene of the wildest animation 
had set in. Tom Owen and his assistant, Fogo, 
with the help of the ring-keepers, plucked up the 
stakes and ropes, and carried them off across 

313 



RODNEY STONE 

country. Crab Wilson was enveloped in great 
coats, and borne away in the barouche, whilst 
Champion Harrison took Mr. Craven's place in 
our curricle. Then, off the huge crowd started, 
horsemen, vehicles, and pedestrians, rolling slowly 
over the broad face of the moorland. The car- 
riages rocked and pitched like boats in a seaway, 
as they lumbered along, fifty abreast, scrambling 
and lurching over everything which came in 
their way. Sometimes, with a snap and a thud, 
one axle would come to the ground, whilst a 
wheel reeled off amidst the tussocks of heather, 
and roars of delight greeted the owners as they 
looked ruefully at the ruin. Then as the gorse 
clumps grew thinner, and the sward more level, 
those on foot began to run, the riders struck in 
their spurs, the drivers cracked their whips, and 
away they all streamed in the maddest, wildest 
cross-country steeplechase, the yellow barouche 
and the crimson curricle, which held the two 
champions, leading the van. 

" What do you think of your chances, Har- 
rison ? " I heard my uncle ask, as the two mares 
picked their way over the broken ground. 

" It's my last fight. Sir Charles," said the smith. 
" You heard the missus say that if she let me off 
this time I was never to ask again. I must try 
and make it a good one." 

" But your training ? " 

314 



THE RING-SIDE 

"I'm always in training, sir. I work hard 
from morning to night, and I drink httle else 
than water. I don't think that Captain Barclay 
can do much better with all his rules." 

" He's rather long in the reach for you." 

"I've fought and beat them that were longer. 
If it comes to a rally I should hold my own, and 
I should have the better of him at a throw." 

" It's a match of youth against experience. 
Well, I would not hedge a guinea of my money. 
But, unless he was acting under force, I cannot 
forgive young Jim for having deserted me." 

" He was acting under force. Sir Charles." 

" You have seen him, then ? " 

" No, master, I have not seen him." 

" You know where he is ? " 

" Well, it is not for me to say one way or the 
other. I can only tell you that he could not 
help himself. But here's the beak a-comin' for 
us again." 

The ominous figure galloped up once more 
alongside of our curricle, but this time his mis- 
sion was a more amiable one. 

" My jurisdiction ends at that ditch, sir," said 
he. " I should fancy that you could hardly wish 
a better place for a mill than the sloping field 
beyond. I am quite sure that no one will inter- 
fere with you there." 

His anxiety that the fight should be brought 

21 315 



RODNEY STONE 

off was in such contrast to the zeal with which 
he had chased us from his county, that my uncle 
could not help remarking upon it. 

"It is not for a magistrate to wink at the 
breaking of the law, sir," he answered. " But if 
my colleague of Hampshire has no scruples 
about its being brought off within his jurisdic- 
tion, I should very much like to see the fight," 
with which he spurred his horse up an adjacent 
knoll, from which he thought that he might gain 
the best view of the proceedings. 

And now I had a view of all those points of 
etiquette and curious survivals of custom which 
are so recent, that we have not yet appreciated 
that they may some day be as interesting to the 
social historian as they then were to the sports- 
man. A dignity was given to the contest by a 
rigid code of ceremony, just as the clash of mail- 
clad knights was prefaced and adorned by the 
calling of the heralds and the showing of blazoned 
shields. To many in those ancient days the 
tourney may have seemed a bloody and brutal 
ordeal, but we who look at it with ample per- 
spective see that it was a rude but gallant prep- 
aration for the conditions of life in an iron age. 
And so also, when the ring has become as extinct 
as the lists, we may understand that a broader 
philosophy would show that all things, which 
spring up so naturally and spontaneously, have a 

316 



THE RING-SIDE 

function to fulfil, and that it is a less evil that 
two men should, of their own free will, fight 
until they can fight no more than that the stand- 
ard of hardihood and endurance should run the 
slightest risk of being lowered in a nation which 
depends so largely upon the individual quahties 
of her citizens for her defence. Do away with 
war, if the cursed thing can by any wit of man 
be avoided, but until you see your way to that, 
have a care in meddling with those primitive 
quahties to which at any moment you may have 
to appeal for your own protection, 

Tom Owen and his singular assistant, Fogo, 
who combined the functions of prize-fighter and 
of poet, though, fortunately for himself, he could 
use his fists better than his pen, soon had the 
ring arranged according to the rules then in 
vogue. The white wooden posts, each with the 
P.C. of the pugilistic club printed upon it, were 
so fixed as to leave a square of 24 feet within the 
roped enclosure. Outside this ring an outer one 
was pitched, eight feet separating the two. The 
inner was for the combatants and for their sec- 
onds, while in the outer there were places for the 
referee, the timekeeper, the backers, and a few se- 
lect and fortunate individuals, of whom, through 
being in my uncle's company, I was one. Some 
twenty well-known prize-fighters, including my 
friend Bill Warr, Black Richmond, Maddox, The 

317 



RODNEY STONE 

Pride of Westminster, Tom Belcher, Paddington 
Jones, Tough Tom Blake, Symonds the ruffian, 
Tyne the tailor, and others, were stationed in the 
outer ring as beaters. These fellows all wore the 
high white hats which were at that time much 
affected by the fancy, and they were armed with 
horse-whips, silver-mounted, and each bearing 
the P.C. monogram. Did any one, be it East 
End rough or West End patrician, intrude within 
the outer ropes, this corps of guardians neither 
argued nor expostulated, but they fell upon the 
offender and laced him with their whips until 
he escaped back out of the forbidden ground. 
Even with so formidable a guard and such fierce 
measures, the beaters-out, who had to check the 
forward heaves of a maddened, straining crowd, 
were often as exhausted at the end of a fight 
as the principals themselves. In the meantime 
they formed up in a line of sentinels, presenting 
under their row of white hats every type of fight- 
ing face, from the fresh boyish countenances of 
Tom Belcher, Jones, and the other younger re- 
cruits, to the scarred and mutilated visages of the 
veteran bruisers. 

Whilst the business of the fixing of the stakes 
and the fastening of the ropes was going for- 
ward, I from my place of vantage could hear the 
talk of the crowd behind me, the front two rows 
of which were lying upon the grass, the next two 

318 



THE RING-SIDE 

kneeling, and the others standing in serried 
ranks all up the side of the gently sloping hill, 
so that each line could just see over the shoul- 
ders of that which was in front. There were 
several, and those amongst the most experi- 
enced, who took the gloomiest view of Harri- 
son's chances, and it made my heart heavy to 
overhear them. 

" It's the old story over again," said one. 
" They won't bear in mind that youth will be 
served. They only learn wisdom when it's 
knocked into them." 

" Ay, ay," responded another. " That's how 
Jack Slack thrashed Boughton, and I myself saw 
Hooper, the tinman, beat to pieces by the fight- 
ing oil-man. They aU come to it in time, and 
now it's Harrison's turn." 

" Don't you be so sure about that ! " cried a 
third. "I've seen Jack Harrison fight five times, 
and I never yet saw him have the worse of it. 
He's a slaughterer, and so I tell you." 

" He was, you mean." 

" Well, I don't see no such difference as all 
that comes to, and I'm putting ten guineas on 
my opinion." 

" Why," said a loud, consequential man from 
immediately behind me, speaking with a broad 
western burr, " vrom what I've zeen of this young 
Gloucester lad, I doan't think Harrison could have 

319 



RODNEY STONE 

stood bevore him for ten rounds when he vas 
in his prime. I vas coming up in the Bristol 
coach yesterday, and the guard he told me 
that he had vifteen thousand pound in hard 
gold in the boot that had been zent up to back 
our man." 

" They'll be in luck if they see their money 
again," said another. " Harrison's no lady's-maid 
fighter, and he's blood to the bone. He'd have 
a shy at it if his man was as big as Carlton 
House." 

" Tut," answered the west-countryman. " It's 
only in Bristol and Gloucester that you can get 
men to beat Bristol and Gloucester." 

" It's like your damned himpudence to say so," 
said an angry voice from the throng behind him. 
" There are six men in London that would hen- 
gage to walk round the best twelve that hever 
came from the west." 

The proceedings might have opened by an im- 
promptu bye-battle between the indignant cock- 
ney and the gentleman from Bristol, but a pro- 
longed roar of applause broke in upon their 
altercation. It was caused by the appearance in 
the ring of Crab Wilson, followed by Dutch Sam 
and Mendoza carrying the basin, sponge, brandy- 
bladder, and other badges of their office. As he 
entered Wilson pulled the canary-yellow hand- 
kerchief from his waist, and going to the corner 

320 



THE RING-SIDE 

post, he tied it to the top of it, where it remained 
fluttering in the breeze. He then took a bundle 
of smaller ribands of the same colour from his 
seconds, and walking round, he offered them to 
the noblemen and Corinthians at half-a-guinea 
apiece as souvenirs of the fight. His brisk trade 
was only brought to an end by the appearance 
of Harrison, who cHmbed in a very leisurely 
manner over the ropes, as befitted his more ma- 
ture years and less elastic joints. The yell which 
greeted him was even more enthusiastic than 
that which had heralded Wilson, and there was 
a louder ring of admiration in it, for the crowd 
had already had their opportunity of seeing Wil- 
son's physique, whilst Harrison's was a surprise 
to them. 

I had often looked upon the mighty arms and 
neck of the smith, but I had never before seen 
him stripped to the waist, or understood the 
marvellous symmetry of development which had 
made him in his youth the favourite model of the 
Ijondon sculptors. There was none of that white 
sleek skin and shimmering play of sinew which 
made Wilson a beautiful picture, but in its stead 
there was a rugged grandeur of knotted and tan- 
gled muscle, as though the roots of some old tree 
were writhing from breast to shoulder, and from 
shoulder to elbow. Even in repose the sun threw 
shadows from the curves of his skin, but when he 

321 



RODNEY STONE 

exerted himself every muscle bunched itself up, 
distinct and hard, breaking his whole trunk into 
gnarled knots of sinew. His skin, on face and 
body, was darker and harsher than that of his 
youthful antagonist, but he looked tougher and 
harder, an effect which was increased by the 
sombre colour of his stockings and breeches. 
He entered the ring, sucking a lemon, with Jim 
Belcher and Caleb Baldwin, the coster, at his 
heels. Strolling across to the post, he tied his 
blue bird's-eye handkerchief over the west-coun- 
tryman's yellow, and then walked to his opponent 
with his hand out. 

" I hope I see you well, Wilson," said he. 

"Pretty tidy, I thank you," answered the 
other. " We'll speak to each other in a different 
vashion, I 'spects, afore we part." 

" But no ill-feeling," said the smith, and the 
two fighting- men grinned at each other as they 
took their own corners. 

" May I ask, Mr. Referee, whether these two 
men have been weighed ? " asked Sir Lothian 
Hume, standing up in the outer ring. 

" Their weight has just been taken under my 
supervision, sir," answered Mr. Craven. " Your 
man brought the scale down at thirteen-three, 
and Harrison at thirteen- eight." 

" He's a fifteen- stoner from the loins up- 
wards," cried Dutch Sam, from his corner. 

322 



THE RING-SIDE 

"We'll get some of it off him before we fin- 
ish." 

" You'll get more off him than ever you bar- 
gained for," answered Jim Belcher, and the 
crowd laughed at the rough chaff. 



323 



CHAPTER XVIII 
THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

" Clear the outer ring ! " cried Jackson, stand- 
ing up beside the ropes with a big silver watch 
in his hand. 

" Ss- whack ! ss- whack ! ss- whack ! " went the 
horsewhips — for a number of the spectators, 
either driven onwards by the pressure behind or 
willing to risk some physical pain on the chance 
of getting a better view, had crept under the 
ropes and formed a ragged fringe within the 
outer ring. Now, amidst roars of laughter from 
the crowd and a shower of blows from the 
beaters-out, they dived madly back, with the 
ungainly haste of frightened sheep blundering 
through a gap in their hurdles. Their case was 
a hard one, for the folk in front refused to yield 
an inch of their places — but the arguments from 
the rear prevailed over everything else, and pres- 
ently every frantic fugitive had been absorbed, 
whilst the beaters- out took their stands along 
the edge at regular intervals, with their whips 
held down by their thighs. 

" Gentlemen," cried Jackson, again, " I am 
requested to inform you that Sir Charles Tre- 

324 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

gellis's nominee is Jack Harrison, fighting at 
thirteen-eight, and Sir Lothian Hume's is Crab 
Wilson, at thirteen-three. No person can be 
allowed at the inner ropes save the referee and 
the timekeeper. I have only to beg that, if the 
occasion should require it, you will all give me 
your assistance to keep the ground clear, to pre- 
vent confusion, and to have a fair fight. All 
ready ? " 

" All ready ! " from both corners. 

" Time ! " 

There was a breathless hush as Harrison, 
Wilson, Belcher, and Dutch Sam walked very 
briskly into the centre of the ring. The two 
men shook hands, whilst their seconds did the 
same, the four hands crossing each other. Then 
the seconds dropped back, and the two cham- 
pions stood toe to toe, with their hands up. 

It was a magnificent sight to any one who had 
not lost his sense of appreciation of the noblest 
of all the works of Nature. Both men fulfilled 
that requisite of the powerful athlete that they 
should look larger without their clothes than 
with them. In ring slang, they buffed well. 
And each showed up the other's points on ac- 
count of the extreme contrast between them : 
the long, loose-limbed, deer- footed youngster, 
and the square- set, rugged veteran with his 
trunk hke the stump of an oak. The betting 

325 



RODNEY STONE 

began to rise upon the younger man from the 
instant that they were put face to face, for his 
advantages were obvious, whilst those quahties 
which had brought Harrison to the top in his 
youth were only a memory in the minds of the 
older men. All could see the three inches extra 
of height and two of reach which Wilson pos- 
sessed, and a glance at the quick, cat-like mo- 
tions of his feet, and the perfect poise of his 
body upon his legs, showed how swiftly he could 
spring either in or out from his slower adversary. 
But it took a subtler insight to read the grim 
smile which flickered over the smith's mouth, or 
the smouldering fire which shone in his grey 
eyes, and it was only the old-timers who knew 
that, with his mighty heart and his iron frame, 
he was a perilous man to lay odds against. 

Wilson stood in the position from which he 
had derived his nickname, his left hand and left 
foot well to the front, his body sloped very far 
back from his loins, and his guard thrown across 
his chest, but held well forward in a way which 
made him exceedingly hard to get at. The 
smith, on the other hand, assumed the obso- 
lete attitude which Humphries and INIendoza in- 
troduced, but which had not for ten years been 
seen in a first-class battle. Both his knees were 
slightly bent, he stood square to his opponent, 
and his two big brown fists were held over his 

326 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

mark so that he could lead equally with either. 
Wilson's hands, which moved incessantly in and 
out, had been stained with some astringent juice 
with the purpose of preventing them from puff- 
ing, and so great was the contrast between them 
and his white forearms, that I imagined that he 
was wearing dark, close-fitting gloves until my 
uncle explained the matter in a whisper. So 
they stood in a quiver of eagerness and expecta- 
tion, whilst that huge multitude hung so silently 
and breathlessly upon every motion that they 
might have believed themselves to be alone, man 
to man, in the centre of some primeval solitude. 

It was evident from the begimiing that Crab 
Wilson meant to throw no chance away, and 
that he would trust to his lightness of foot and 
quickness of hand until he should see something 
of the tactics of this rough-looking antagonist. 
He paced swiftly round several times, with Httle, 
elastic, menacing steps, whilst the smith pivoted 
slowly to correspond. Then, as Wilson took a 
backward step to induce Harrison to break his 
ground and follow him, the older man grinned 
and shook his head. 

" You must come to me, lad," said he. " I'm 
too old to scamper round the ring after you. 
But we have the day before us, and I'll wait." 

He may not have expected his invitation to be 
so promptly answered ; but in an instant, with 

327 



RODNEY STONE 

a panther spring, the west- countryman was on 
him. Smack ! smack ! smack ! Thud ! thud ! 
The first three were on Harrison's face, the last 
two were heavy counters upon Wilson's body. 
Back danced the youngster, disengaging himself 
in beautiful style, but with two angry red blotches 
over the lower line of his ribs. " Elood for Wil- 
son ! " yelled the crowd, and as the smith faced 
round to follow the movements of his nimble 
adversary, I saw with a thrill that his chin was 
crimson and dripping. In came Wilson again 
with a feint at the mark and a flush hit on Har- 
rison's cheek ; then, breaking the force of the 
smith's ponderous right counter, he brought the 
round to a conclusion by slipping down upon the 
grass. 

" First knock-down for Harrison ! " roared a 
thousand voices, for ten times as many pounds 
would change hands upon the point. 

" I appeal to the referee ! " cried Sir Lothian 
Hume. " It was a shp, and not a knock-down." 

" I give it a shp," said Berkeley Craven, and 
the men walked to their corners, amidst a general 
shout of applause for a spirited and well- contested 
opening round. Harrison fumbled in his mouth 
with his finger and thumb, and then with a sharp 
half- turn he wrenched out a tooth, which he 
threw into the basin. "Quite like old times," 
said he to Belcher. 

328 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

" Have a care, Jack ! " whispered the anxious 
second. " You got rather more than you gave." 

" Maybe I can carry more, too," said he 
serenely, whilst Caleb Baldwin mopped the big 
sponge over his face, and the shining bottom of 
the tin basin ceased suddenly to ghmmer through 
the water. 

I could gather from the comments of the ex- 
perienced Corinthians around me, and from the 
remarks of the crowd behind, that Harrison's 
chance was thought to have been lessened by 
this round. 

"I've seen his old faults and I haven't seen his 
old merits," said Sir John Lade, our opponent of 
the Brighton Road. " He's as slow on his feet 
and with his guard as ever. Wilson hit him as 
he liked." 

" Wilson may hit him three times to his once, 
but his one is worth AVilson's three," remarked 
my uncle. " He's a natural fighter and the other 
an excellent sparrer, but I don't hedge a guinea." 

A sudden hush announced that the men were 
on their feet again, and so skilfully had the 
seconds done their work, that neither looked a 
jot the worse for what had passed. Wilson led 
viciously with hi« left, but misjudged his dis- 
tance, receiving a smashing counter on the mark 
in reply which sent him reeling and gasping to 
the ropes. " Hurrah for the old one ! " yelled 

329 



RODNEY STONE 

the mob, and my uncle laughed and nudged Sir 
John Lade. The west-countryman smiled, and 
shook himself like a dog from the water as with 
a stealthy step he came back to the centre of the 
ring, where his man was still standing. Bang 
came Harrison's right upon the mark once more, 
but Crab broke the blow with his elbow, and 
jumped laughing away. Both men were a little 
winded, and their quick, high breathing, with the 
light patter of their feet as they danced round 
each other, blended into one continuous, long- 
drawn sound. Two simultaneous exchanges 
with the left made a clap hke a pistol-shot, and 
then as Harrison rushed in for a fall, Wilson 
slipped him, and over went my old friend upon 
his face, partly from the impetus of his own futile 
attack, and partly from a swinging half-arm blow 
which the west- countryman brought home upon 
his ear as he passed. 

" Knock-down for Wilson," cried the referee, 
and the answering roar was like the broadside 
of a seventy-four. Up went hundreds of curly 
brimmed Corinthian hats into the air, and the 
slope before us was a bank of flushed and yelling 
faces. My heart was cramped with my fears, 
and I winced at every blow, yet I was conscious 
also of an absolute fascination, with a wild thrill 
of fierce joy and a certain exultation in our com- 
mon human nature which could rise above pain 

330 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

and fear in its straining after the very humblest 
form of fame. 

Belcher and Baldwin had pounced upon their 
man, and had him up and in his corner in an 
instant, but, in spite of the coolness with which 
the hardy smith took his punishment, there was 
immense exultation amongst the west-country- 
men. 

" We've got him ! He's beat ! He's beat ! " 
shouted the two Jew seconds. " It's a hundred 
to a tizzy on Gloucester ! " 

" Beat, is he ? " answered Belcher. " You'll 
need to rent this field before you can beat him, 
for he'll stand a month of that kind of fly- 
flappin'." He was swinging a towel in front of 
Harrison as he spoke, whilst Baldwin mopped 
him with the sponge. 

" How is it with you, Harrison ? " asked my 
uncle. 

" Hearty as a buck, sir. It's as right as the 
day." 

The cheery answer came with so merry a 
ring that the clouds cleared from my uncle's face. 

" You should recommend your man to lead 
more, Tregellis," said Sir John Lade. " He'll 
never win it unless he leads." 

" He knows more about the game than you or 
I do, Lade. I'll let him take his own way." 

" The betting is three to one against him now," 
33 331 



RODNEY STONE 

said a gentleman, whose grizzled moustache 
showed that he was an officer of the late war. 

" Very true, General Fitzpatrick. But you'll 
observe that it is the raw young bloods who are 
giving the odds, and the Sheenies who are taking 
them. I still stick to my opinion." 

The two men came briskly up to the scratch 
at the call of time, the smith a little lumpy on 
one side of his head, but with the same good- 
humoured and yet menacing smile upon his hps. 
As to Wilson, he was exactly as he had begun 
in appearance, but twice I saw him close his lips 
sharply as if he were in a sudden spasm of pain, 
and the blotches over his ribs were darkening 
from scarlet to a sullen purple. He held his 
guard somewhat lower to screen this vulnerable 
point, and he danced round his opponent with a 
lightness which showed that his wind had not 
been impaired by the body-blows, whilst the 
smith still adopted the impassive tactics with 
which he had commenced. 

Many rumours had come up to us from the 
west as to Crab Wilson's fine science and the 
quickness of his hitting, but the truth surpassed 
what had been expected of him. In this round 
and the two which followed he showed a swift- 
ness and accuracy which old ringsiders declared 
that Mendoza in his prime had never surpassed. 
He was in and out like lightning, and his blows 

332 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

were heard and felt rather than seen. But Har- 
rison still took them all with the same dogged 
smile, occasionally getting in a hard body-blow 
in return, for his adversary's height and his posi- 
tion combined to keep his face out of danger. 
At the end of the fifth round the odds were four 
to one, and the west-countrymen were riotous in 
their exultation. 

" What think you now ? " cried the west- 
countryman behind me, and in his excitement 
he could get no further save to repeat over and 
over again, "What think you now?" When 
in the sixth round the smith was peppered twice 
without getting in a counter, and had the worst 
of the fall as well, the fellow became inarticulate 
altogether, and could only huzza wildly in his 
delight. Sir Lothian Hume was smiling and 
nodding his head, whilst my uncle was coldly 
impassive, though I was sure that his heart was 
as heavy as mine. 

" This won't do, Tregellis," said General Fitz- 
patrick. " ^ly money is on the old one, but the 
other is the finer boxer." 

" ^ly man is un peu passe, but he will come 
through all right," answered my uncle. 

I saw that both Belcher and Baldwin were 
looking grave, and I knew that we must have a 
change of some sort, or the old tale of youth and 
age would be told once more. 

333 



RODNEY STONE 

The seventh round, however, showed the re- 
serve strength of the hardy old fighter, and 
lengthened the faces of those layers of odds who 
had imagined that the fight was practically over, 
and that a few finishing rounds would have given 
the smith his couji-de-grdce. It was clear when 
the two men faced each other that Wilson had 
made himself up for mischief, and meant to 
force the fighting and maintain the lead which 
he had gained, but that grey gleam was not 
quenched yet in the veteran's eyes, and still the 
same smile played over his grim face. He had 
become more jaunty, too, in the swing of his 
shoulders and the poise of his head, and it 
brought my confidence back to see the brisk 
way in which he squared up to his man. 

Wilson led with his left, but was short, and 
he only just avoided a dangerous right-hander 
which whistled in at his ribs. " Bravo, old 'un, 
one of those will be a dose of laudanum if you 
get it home," cried Belcher. There was a pause 
of shuffling feet and hard breathing, broken by 
the thud of a tremendous body blow from Wil- 
son, which the smith stopped with the utmost 
coolness. Then again a few seconds of silent 
tension, when Wilson led viciously at the head, 
but Harrison took it on his forearm, smiling and 
nodding at his opponent. '* Get the pepper-box 
open ! " yelled INIendoza, and Wilson sprang in 

334 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

to carry out his instructions, but was hit out 
again by a heavy drive on the chest. " Now's 
the time ! Follow it up ! " cried Belcher, and in 
rushed the smith, pelting in his half-arm blows, 
and taking the returns without a wince, until 
Crab Wilson went down exhausted in the cor- 
ner. Both men had their marks to show, but 
Harrison had all the best of the rally, so it was 
our turn to throw our hats into the air and to 
shout ourselves hoarse, whilst the seconds clapped 
their man upon his broad back as they hurried 
him to his corner. 

" What think you now ? " shouted all the 
neighbours of the west-countryman, repeating 
his own refrain. 

" Why, Dutch Sam never put in a better 
rally," cried Sir John Lade. " What's the bet- 
ting now. Sir Lothian ? " 

" I have laid all that I intend ; but I don't 
think my man can lose it." For all that, the 
smile had faded from his face, and I observed 
that he glanced continually over his shoulder 
into the crowd behind him. 

A sullen purple cloud had been drifting slowly 
up from the south-west — though I dare say that 
out of thirty thousand folk there were very few 
who had spared the time or attention to mark it. 
Now it suddenly made its presence apparent by 
a few heavy drops of rain, thickening rapidly into 

335 



RODNEY STONE 

a sharp shower, which filled the air with its hiss, 
and rattled noisily upon the high, hard hats of 
the Corinthians. Coat-collars were turned up 
and handkerchiefs tied round necks, whilst the 
skins of the two men glistened with the moisture 
as they stood up to each other once more. I 
noticed that Belcher whispered very earnestly 
into Harrison's ear as he rose from his knee, and 
that the smith nodded his head curtly, with the 
air of a man who understands and approves of 
his orders. 

And what those orders were was instantly ap- 
parent. Harrison was to be turned from the de- 
fender into the attacker. The result of the rally 
in the last round had convinced his seconds that 
when it came to give-and-take hitting, their 
hardy and powerful man was likely to have the 
better of it. And then on the top of this came 
the rain. With the slippery grass the superior 
activity of Wilson would be neutrahzed, and he 
would find it harder to avoid the rushes of his 
opponent. It was in taking advantage of such 
circumstances that the art of ringcraft lay, and 
many a shrewd and vigilant second had won a 
losing battle for his man. " Go in, then ! Go 
in ! " whooped the two prize-fighters, while every 
backer in the crowd took up the roar. 

And Harrison went in, in such fashion that no 
man who saw him do it will ever forget it. Crab 

336 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

Wilson, as game as a pebble, met him with a 
flush hit every time, but no human strength or 
human science seemed capable of stopping the 
terrible onslaught of this iron man. Round after 
round he scrambled his way in, slap-bang, right 
and left, every hit tremendously sent home. 
Sometimes he covered his own face with his left, 
and sometimes he disdained to use any guard at 
all, but his springing hits were irresistible. The 
rain lashed down upon them, pouring from their 
faces and running in crimson trickles over their 
bodies, but neither gave any heed to it save to 
manoeuvre always with the view of bringing it 
in to each other's eyes. But round after round 
the west- countryman fell, and round after round 
the betting rose, until the odds were higher in 
our favour than ever they had been against us. 
With a sinking heart, filled with pity and ad- 
miration for these two gallant men, I longed 
that every bout might be the last, and yet the 
" Time ! " was hardly out of Jackson's mouth 
before they had both sprung from their second's 
knees, with laughter upon their mutilated faces 
and chaffing words upon their bleeding lips. It 
may have been a humble object-lesson, but I 
give you my word that many a time in my hfe 
I have braced myself to a hard task by the 
remembrance of that inorning upon Crawley 
Downs, asking myself if my manhood were so 

337 



RODNEY STONE 

weak that I would not do for my country, or 
for those whom I loved, as much as these two 
would endure for a paltry stake and for their 
own credit amongst their fellows. Such a spec- 
tacle may brutalize those who are brutal, but I 
say that there is a spiritual side to it also, and 
that the sight of the utmost human limit of en- 
durance and courage is one which bears a lesson 
of its own. 

But if the ring can breed bright virtues, it is 
but a partisan who can deny that it can be the 
mother of black vices also, and we were destined 
that morning to have a sight of each. It so 
chanced that, as the battle went against his man, 
my eyes stole round very often to note the ex- 
pression upon Sir Lothian Hume's face, for I 
knew how fearlessly he had laid the odds, and I 
understood that his fortunes as well as his cham- 
pion were going down before the smashing blows 
of the old bruiser. The confident smile with 
which he had watched the opening rounds had 
long vanished from his lips, and his cheeks had 
turned of a sallow pallor, whilst his small, fierce 
grey eyes looked furtively from under his craggy 
brows, and more than once he burst into savage 
imprecations when Wilson was beaten to the 
ground. But especially I noticed that his chin 
was always coming round to his shoulder, and 
that at the end of every round he sent keen little 

338 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

glances flying backwards into the crowd. For 
some time, amidst the immense hillside of faces 
which banked themselves up on the slope behind 
us, I was unable to pick out the exact point at 
which his gaze was directed. But at last I suc- 
ceeded in following it. A very tall man, who 
showed a pair of broad, bottle-green shoulders 
high above his neighbours, was looking very 
hard in our direction, and I assured myself that 
a quick exchange of almost imperceptible signals 
was going on between him and the Corinthian 
baronet. I became conscious, also, as I watched 
this stranger, that the cluster of men around him 
were the roughest elements of the whole assem- 
bly : fierce, vicious-looking fellows, with cruel, 
debauched faces, who howled like a pack of 
wolves at every blow, and yelled execrations at 
Harrison whenever he walked across to his cor- 
ner. So turbulent were they that I saw the 
ringkeepers whisper together and glance up in 
their direction, as if preparing for trouble in store, 
but none of them had realized how near it was 
to breaking out, or how dangerous it might 
prove. 

Thirty rounds had been fought in an hour and 
twenty-five minutes, and the rain was pelting 
down harder than ever. A thick steam rose 
from the two fighters, and the ring was a pool of 
mud. Repeated falls had turned the men brown, 

339 



RODNEY STONE 

with a horrible mottling of crimson blotches. 
Round after round had ended by Crab Wilson 
going down, and it was evident, even to my in- 
experienced eyes, that he was weakening rapidly. 
He leaned heavily upon the two Jews when they 
led him to his corner, and he reeled when their 
support was withdrawn. Yet his science had, 
through long practice, become an automatic 
thing with him, so that he stopped and hit with 
less power, but with as great accuracy as ever. 
Even now a casual observer might have thought 
that he had the best of the battle, for the smith 
was far the more terribly marked, but there was 
a wild stare in the west- countryman's eyes, and 
a strange catch in his breathing, which told us 
that it is not the most dangerous blow which 
shows upon the surface. A heavy cross-buttock 
at the end of the thirty-first round shook the 
breath from his body, and he came up for the 
thirty-second with the same jaunty gallantry as 
ever, but with the dazed expression of a man 
whose wind has been utterly smashed. 

" He's got the roly-polies," cried Belcher. 
" You have it your own way now ! " 

" I'll vight for a week yet," gasped Wilson. 

"Damme, I like his style," cried Sir John 
Lade. " No shifting, nothing shy, no hugging 
nor hauhng. It's a shame to let him fight. Take 
the brave fellow away ! " 

340 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

" Take him away ! Take him away ! " echoed 
a hundred voices. 

" I won't be taken away ! Who dares say 
so ? " cried Wilson, who was back, after another 
fall, upon his second's knee. 

" His heart won't suffer him to cry enough," 
said General Fitzpatrick. " As his patron, Sir 
Lothian, you should direct the sponge to be 
thrown up." 

" You think he can't win it ? " 

" He is hopelessly beat, sir." 

" You don't know him. He's a glutton of the 
first water." 

"A gamer man never pulled his shirt off; but 
the other is too strong for him." 

" Well, sir, I believe that he can fight another 
ten rounds." He half turned as he spoke, and I 
saw him throw up his left arm with a singular 
gesture into the air. 

" Cut the ropes ! Fair play ! Wait till the 
rain stops ! " roared a stentorian voice behind 
me, and I saw that it came from the big man 
with the bottle-green coat. His cry was a signal, 
for, like a thunder-clap, there came a hundred 
hoarse voices shouting together : " Fair play for 
Gloucester ! Break the ring ! Break the ring ! " 

Jackson had called " Time," and the two mud- 
plastered men were already upon their feet, but 
the interest had suddenly changed from the fight 

341 



* RODNEY STONE 

to the audience. A succession of heaves from 
the back of the crowd had sent a series of long 
ripples running through it, all the heads swaying 
rhythmically in the one direction hke a wheat- 
field in a squall. With every impulsion the oscil- 
lation increased, those in front trying vainly to 
steady themselves against the rushes from be- 
hind, until suddenly there came a sharp snap, 
two white stakes with earth clinging to their 
points flew into the outer ring, and a spray of 
people, dashed from the solid wave behind, were 
thrown against the line of the beaters-out. 
Down came the long horse-whips, swayed by the 
most vigorous arms in England ; but the wincing 
and shouting victims had no sooner scrambled 
back a few yards from the merciless cuts, before 
a fresh charge from the rear hurled them once 
more into the arms of the prize-fighters. JMany 
threw themselves down upon the turf and al- 
lowed successive waves to pass over their bod- 
ies, whilst others, driven wild by the blows, re- 
turned them with their hunting-crops and walk- 
ing-canes. And then, as half the crowd strained 
to the left and half to the right to avoid the press- 
ure from behind, the vast mass was suddenly 
reft in twain, and through the gap surged the 
rough fellows from behind, all armed with loaded 
sticks and yelling for "Fair play and Gloucester!" 
Their determined rush carried the prize-fighters 

342 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

before them, the inner ropes snapped hke threads, 
and in an instant the ring was a swirHng, seeth- 
ing mass of figures, whips and sticks falhng and 
clattering, whilst, face to face, in the middle of 
it all, so wedged that they could neither advance 
nor retreat, the smith and the west- countryman 
continued their long-drawn battle as oblivious of 
the chaos raging round them as two bulldogs 
would have been who had got each other by the 
throat. The driving rain, the cursing and screams 
of pain, the swish of the blows, the yelling of 
orders and advice, the heavy smell of the damp 
cloth — every incident of that scene of my early 
youth comes back to me now in my old age as 
clearly as if it had been but yesterday. 

It was not easy for us to observe anything at 
the time, however, for we were ourselves in the 
midst of the frantic crowd, swaying about and 
carried occasionally quite off our feet, but en- 
deavouring to keep our places behind Jackson 
and Berkeley Craven, who, with sticks and whips 
meeting over their heads, were still calhng the 
rounds and superintending the fight. 

" The ring's broken ! " shouted Sir Lothian 
Hume. " I appeal to the referee ! The fight is 
null and void." 

" You villain ! " cried my uncle, hotly ; " this 
is your doing." 

" You have already an account to answer for 

343 



RODNEY STONE 

with me," said Hume, with his sinister sneer, and 
as he spoke he was swept by the rush of the 
crowd into my uncle's very arms. The two 
men's faces were not more than a few inches 
apart, and Sir Lothian's bold eyes had to sink 
before the imperious scorn which gleamed coldly 
in those of my uncle. 

" We will settle our accounts, never fear, 
though I degrade myself in meeting such a black- 
leg. What is it. Craven ? " 

" We shall have to declare a draw, Tregel- 
lis." 

" My man has the fight in hand." 

*' I cannot help it. I cannot attend to my 
duties when every moment I am cut over with 
a whip or a stick." 

Jackson suddenly made a wild dash into the 
crowd, but returned with empty hands and a 
rueful face. 

" They've stolen my timekeeper's watch," he 
cried. " A little cove snatched it out of my 
hand." 

My uncle clapped his hand to his fob. 

" Mine has gone also ! " he cried. 

" Draw it at once, or your man will get hurt," 
said Jackson, and we saw that as the undaunted 
smith stood up to Wilson for another round, a 
dozen rough fellows were clustering round him 
with bludgeons. 



V 

1 



THE SMITH'S LAST BATTLE 

" Do you consent to a draw, Sir Lothian 
Hume ? " 

" I do." 

" And you, Sir Charles ? " 

" Certainly not." 

" The ring is gone." 

" That is no fault of mine." 

" Well, I see no help for it. As referee I 
order that the men be withdrawn, and that the 
stakes be returned to their owners." 

" A draw ! A draw ! " shrieked every one, 
and the crowd in an instant dispersed in every 
direction, the pedestrians running to get a good 
lead upon the London road, and the Corinthians 
in search of their horses and carriages. Harrison 
ran over to Wilson's corner and shook him by 
the hand. 

" I hope I have not hurt you much." 

" I'm hard put to it to stand. How are 
you? 

" My head's singin' like a kettle. It was the 
rain that helped me." 

" Yes, I thought I had you beat one time. I 
never wish a better battle." 

" Nor me either. Good-bye." 

And so those two brave-hearted fellows made 
their way amidst the yelping roughs, like two 
wounded lions amidst a pack of volves and jack- 
als. I say again that, if the ring has fallen low, 

345 



RODNEY STONE 

it is not in the main the fault of the men who 
have done the fighting, but it hes at the door of 
the vile crew of ring-side parasites and ruffians, 
who are as far below the honest pugilist as the 
welsher and the blackleg are below the noble 
racehorse which serves them as a pretext for 
their villainies. 



346 



CHAPTER XIX 
CLIFFE ROYAL 

My uncle was humanely anxious to get Harri- 
son to bed as soon as possible, for the smith, al- 
though he laughed at his own injuries, had none 
the less been severely punished. 

" Don't you dare ever to ask my leave to fight 
again, Jack Harrison," said his wife, as she 
looked ruefully at his battered face. " Why, 
it's worse than when you beat Black Baruk ; and 
if it weren't for your topcoat, I couldn't swear 
you were the man who led me to the altar ! 
If the King of England ask you, I'll never let 
you do it more." 

" Well, old lass, I give my davy that I never 
will. It's best that I leave fightin' before fight- 
in' leaves me." He screwed up his face as he 
took a sup from Sir Charles's brandy flask. 
" It's fine liquor, sir, but it gets into my cut Hps 
most cruel. Why, here's John Cummings of 
the Friar's Oak Inn, as I'm a sinner, and seekin' 
for a mad doctor, to judge by the look of him ! " 

It was certainly a most singular figure who 

was approaching us over the moor. With the 

flushed, dazed face of a man who is just reco ver- 
sa 347 



RODNEY STONE 

ing from recent intoxication, the landlord was 
tearing madly about, his hat gone, and his hair 
and beard flying in the wind. He ran in little 
zigzags from one knot of people to another, 
whilst his peculiar appearance drew a running 
fire of witticisms as he went, so that he remind- 
ed me irresistibly of a snipe skimming along 
through a line of guns. We saw him stop for 
an instant by the yellow barouche, and hand 
something to Sir Lothian Hume. Then on he 
came again, until at last, catching sight of us, he 
gave a cry of joy, and ran for us full speed with 
a note held out at arm's length. 

" You're a nice cove, too, John Cummings," 
said Harrison, reproachfully. " Didn't I tell 
you not to let a drop pass your lips until you 
had given your message to Sir Charles ? " 

" I ought to be pole-axed, I ought," he cried 
in bitter repentance. " I asked for you. Sir 
Charles, as I'm a livin' man, I did, but you 
weren't there, and what with bein' so pleased at 
gettin' such odds when 1 knew Harrison was 
goin' to fight, an' what with the landlord at the 
George wantin' me to try his own specials, I let 
my senses go clean away from me. And now 
it's only after the fight is over that I see you. Sir 
Charles, an' if you lay that whip over my back, 
it's only what I deserve." 

But my uncle was paying no attention what- 

348 



CLIFFE ROYAL 

ever to the voluble self-reproaches of the land- 
lord. He had opened the note, and was reading 
it with a slight raising of the eyebrows, which 
was almost the very highest note in his limited 
emotional gamut. 

" What make you of this, nephew ? " he asked, 
handing it to me. 

This was what I read — 

" Sir Charles Tregellis, 

" For God's sake, come at once, when 
this reaches you, to ClifFe Royal, and tarry as 
little as possible upon the way. You will see 
me there, and you will hear much which con- 
cerns you deeply. I pray you to come as soon 
as may be ; and until then I remain him whom 

you knew as 

"James Harrison." 

" Well, nephew ? " asked my uncle. 

" Why, sir, I cannot tell what it may mean." 

" Who gave it to you, sirrah ? " 

" It was young Jim Harrison himself, sir," 
said the landlord, " though indeed I scarce knew 
him at first, for he looked like his own ghost. 
He was so eager that it should reach you that he 
would not leave me until the horse was har- 
nessed and I started upon my way. There was 
one note for you and one for Sir Lothian Hume, 

349 



RODNEY STONE 

and I wish to God he had chosen a better mes- 
senger ! " 

"This is a mystery indeed," said my uncle, 
bending his brows over the note. " What 
should he be doing at that house of ill-omen ? 
And why does he sign himself ' him whom you 
knew as Jim Harrison ? ' By what other style 
should I know him ? Harrison, you can throw 
a light upon this. You, Mrs. Harrison ; I see 
by your face that you understand it." 

" Maybe we do, Sir Charles ; but we are plain 
folk, my Jack and I, and we go as far as we see 
our way, and when we don't see our way any 
longer, we just stop. We've been goin' this 
twenty year, but now we'll draw aside and let 
our betters get to the front ; so if you wish to 
find what that note means, I can only advise 
you to do what you are asked, and to drive over 
to Cliffe Royal, where you will find out." 

My uncle put the note into his pocket. 

" I don't move until I have seen you safely in 
the hands of the surgeon, Harrison." 

" Never mind for me, sir. The missus and me 
can drive down to Crawley in the gig, and a yard 
of stickin' plaster and a raw steak will soon set 
me to rights." 

But my uncle was by no means to be per- 
suaded, and he drove the pair into Crawley, 
where the smith was left under the charge of his 

350 



CLIFFE ROYAL 

wife in the very best quarters which money 
could procure. Then, after a hasty luncheon, 
we turned the mares' heads for the south. 

'* This ends my connection with the ring, 
nephew," said my uncle. " I perceive that there 
is no possible means by which it can be kept 
pure from roguery. I have been cheated and be- 
fooled ; but a man learns wisdom at last, and never 
again do I give countenance to a prize-fight." 

Had I been older or he less formidable, I 
might have said what was in my heart, and 
begged him to give up other things also — to 
come out from those shallow circles in which he 
lived, and to find some work that was worthy of 
his strong brain and his good heart. But the 
thought had hardly formed itself in my mind be- 
fore he had dropped his serious vein, and was 
chatting away about some new silver- mounted 
harness which he intended to spring upon the 
Mall, and about the match for a thousand guin- 
eas which he meant to make between his filly 
Ethelberta and Lord Doncaster's famous three- 
year-old Aurelius. 

We had got as far as Whiteman's Green, 
which is rather more than midway between 
Crawley Down and Friar's Oak, when, looking 
backwards, I saw far down the road the gleam 
of the sun upon a high yellow carriage. Sir 
Lothian Hume was following us. 

351 



RODNEY STONE 

" He has had the same summons as we, and 
is bound for the same destination," said my 
uncle, glancing over his shoulder at the distant 
barouche. "We are both wanted at ClifFe 
Royal — we, the two survivors of that black 
business. And it is Jim Harrison of all people 
who calls us there. Nephew, I have had an 
eventful life, but I feel as if the very strangest 
scene of it were waiting for me among those 
trees." 

He whipped up the mares, and now from the 
curve of the road we could see the high dark 
pinnacles of the old Manor-house shooting up 
above the ancient oaks which ring it round. The 
sight of it, with its blood-stained and ghost- 
blasted reputation, would in itself have been 
enough to send a thrill through my nerves ; but 
when the words of my uncle made me suddenly 
reahze that this strange summons was indeed 
for the two men who were concerned in that 
old-world tragedy, and that it was the playmate 
of my youth who had sent it, I caught my 
breath as I seemed vaguely to catch a glimpse 
of some portentous thing forming itself in front 
of us. The rusted gates between the crumbling 
heraldic pillars were folded back, and my uncle 
flicked the mares impatiently as we flew up the 
weed-grown avenue, until he pulled them on 
their haunches before the time-blotched steps. 

352 



CLIFFE ROYAL 

The front door was open, and Boy Jim was 
waiting there to meet us. 

But it was a different Boy Jim from him whom 
I had known and loved. There was a change in 
him somewhere, a change so marked that it was 
the first thing that I noticed, and yet so subtle 
that I could not put words to it. He was not 
better dressed than of old, for I well knew the 
old brown suit that he wore. He was not less 
comely, for his training had left him the very 
model of what a man should be. And yet there 
was a change, a touch of dignity in the expres- 
sion, a suggestion of confidence in the bearing 
which seemed, now that it was supplied, to be 
the one thing which had been needed to give 
him harmony and finish. Somehow, in spite 
of his prowess, his old school name of " Boy " 
had clung very naturally to him, until that 
instant when I saw him standing in his self- 
contained and magnificent manhood in the door- 
way of the ancient house. A woman stood 
beside him, her hand resting upon his shoulder, 
and I saw that it was ^liss Hinton of Anstey 
Cross. 

" You remember me. Sir Charles TregeUis," 
said she, coming forward, as we sprang down 
from the curricle. 

My uncle looked hard at her with a puzzled 

face. 

353 



RODNEY STONE 

" I do not think that I have the privilege, 
madame. And yet " 

" Polly Hinton, of the Haymarket. You 
surely cannot have forgotten Polly Hinton." 

" Forgotten ! Why, we have mourned for 
you in Fops' Alley for more years than I care to 
think of. But what in the name of wonder " 

" I was privately married, and 1 retired from 
the stage. I want you to forgive me for taking 
Jim away from you last night." 

" It was you, then ? " 

" I had a stronger claim even than you could 
have. You were his patron ; I was his mother." 
She drew his head down to hers as she spoke, 
and there, with their cheeks together, were the 
two faces, the one stamped with the waning 
beauty of womanhood, the other with the wax- 
ing strength of man, and yet so alike in the dark 
eyes, the blue-black hair and the broad white 
brow, that I marvelled that I had never read 
her secret on the first days that I had seen them 
together. " Yes," she cried, " he is my own 
boy, and he saved me from what is worse than 
death, as your nephew Rodney could tell you. 
Yet my lips were sealed, and it was only last 
night that I could tell him that it was his 
mother whom he had brought back by his gen- 
tleness and his patience into the sweetness of 
life." 

354 



CLIFFE ROYAL 

" Hush, mother ! " said Jim, turning his lips to 
her cheek. " There are some things which are 
between ourselves. But tell me. Sir Charles, 
how went the fight? " 

" Your uncle would have won it, but the 
roughs broke the ring." 

" He is no uncle of mine, Sir Charles, but he 
has been the best and truest friend, both to me 
and to my father, that ever the world could 
offer. I only know one as true," he continued, 
taking me by the hand, " and dear old Rodney 
Stone is his name. But I trust he was not 
much hurt ? " 

"A week or two will set him right. But I 
cannot pretend to understand how this matter 
stands, and you must allow me to say that I 
have not heard you advance anything yet which 
seems to me to justify you in abandoning your 
engagements at a moment's notice." 

*' Come in. Sir Charles, and I am convinced 
that you will acknowledge that I could not have 
done otherwise. But here, if I mistake not, is 
Sir Lothian Hume." 

The yellow barouche had swung into the 
avenue, and a few moments later the weary, 
panting horses had pulled up behind our curricle. 
Sir Lothian sprang out, looking as black as a 
thunder-cloud. 

" Stay where you are, Corcoran," said he ; and 

355 



RODNEY STONE 

I caught a glimpse of a bottle-green coat which 
told me who was his travelling companion. 
" Well," he continued, looking round him with 
an insolent stare, " I should vastly like to know 
who has had the insolence to give me so press- 
ing an invitation to visit my own house, and 
what in the devil you mean by daring to tres- 
pass upon my grounds ? " 

" 1 promise you that you will understand this 
and a good deal more before we part. Sir Lo- 
thian," said Jim, with a curious smile playing 
over his face. "If you will follow me, I will 
endeavour to make it all clear to you." 

With his mother's hand in his own, he led us 
into that ill-omened room where the cards were 
still heaped upon the sideboard, and the dark 
shadow lurked in the corner of the ceiling. 

" Now, sirrah, your explanation ! " cried Sir 
Lothian, standing with his arms folded by the 
door. 

" My first explanations I owe to you. Sir 
Charles," said Jim ; and as I listened to his voice 
and noted his manner, I could not but admire 
the effect which the company of her whom he 
now knew to be his mother had had upon a rude 
country lad. " I wish to tell you what occurred 
last night." 

" I will tell it for you, Jim," said his mother. 
" You must know, Sir Charles, that though my 

356 



CLIFFE ROYAL 

son knew nothing of his parents, we were both 
ahve, and had never lost sight of him. For my 
part, I let him have his own way in going to 
London and in taking up this challenge. It was 
only yesterday that it came to the ears of his 
father, who would have none of it. He was in 
the weakest health, and his wishes were not to 
be gainsayed. He ordered me to go at once and 
to bring his son to his side. I was at my wit's 
end, for I was sure that Jim would never come 
unless a substitute were provided for him. I 
went to the kind, good couple who had brought 
him up, and I told them how matters stood. 
Mrs. Harrison loved Jim as if he had been her 
own son, and her husband loved mine, so they 
came to my help, and may God bless them for 
their kindness to a distracted wife and mother ! 
Harrison would take Jim's place if Jim would 
go to his father. Then I drove to Crawley. I 
found out which was Jim's room, and I spoke to 
him through the window, for I was sure that 
those who had backed him would not let him 
go. I told him that I was his mother. I told 
him who was his father. I said that I had my 
phaeton ready, and that he might, for all I knew, 
be only in time to receive the dying blessing of 
that parent whom he had never known. Still 
the boy would not go until he had my assurance 
that Harrison would take his place." 

357 



RODNEY STONE 

"Why did he not leave a message with 
Belcher ? " 

" My head was in a whirl, Sir Charles. To 
find a father and a mother, a new name and a 
new rank in a few minutes might turn a stronger 
brain than ever mine was. My mother begged 
me to come with her, and I went. The phaeton 
was waiting, but we had scarcely started when 
some fellow seized the horses' heads, and a 
couple of ruffians attacked us. One of them I 
beat over the head with the butt of the whip, so 
that he dropped the cudgel with which he was 
about to strike me; then lashing the horse, I 
shook off the others and got safely away. I 
cannot imagine who they were or why they 
should molest us." 

" Perhaps Sir Lothian Hume could tell you," 
said my uncle. 

Our enemy said nothing ; but his little grey 
eyes slid round with a most murderous glance in 
our direction. 

" After I had come here and seen my father I 
went down " 

My uncle stopped him with a cry of astonish- 
ment. 

" What did you say, young man ? You came 
here and you saw your father — here at ClifFe 
Royal ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

358 



CLIFFE ROYAL 

My uncle had turned very pale. 

" In God's name, then, tell us who your father 
is!" 

Jim made no answer save to point over our 
shoulders, and glancing round, we became 
aware that two people had entered the room 
through the door which led to the bedroom stair. 
The one I recognized in an instant. That im- 
passive, mask-like face and demure manner 
could only belong to Ambrose, the former valet 
of my uncle. The other was a very different 
and even more singular figure. He was a tall 
man, clad in a dark dressing-gown, and leaning 
heavily upon a stick. His long, bloodless coun- 
tenance was so thin and so white that it gave 
the strangest illusion of transparency. Only 
within the folds of a shroud have I ever seen so 
wan a face. The brindled hair and the rounded 
back gave the impression of advanced age, and it 
was only the dark brows and the bright alert 
eyes glancing out from beneath them which 
made me doubt whether it was really an old 
man who stood before us. 

There was an instant of silence, broken by a 
deep oath from Sir Lothian Hume — 

" Lord Avon, by God ! " he cried. 

" Very much at your service, gentlemen," an- 
swered the strange figure in the dressing-gown. 



359 



CHAPTER XX 
LORD AVON 

My uncle was an impassive man by nature, and 
had become more so by the tradition of the 
society in which he hved. He could have turned 
a card upon which his fortune depended without 
the twitch of a muscle, and I had seen him my- 
self driving to imminent death on the Godstone 
Road with as calm a face as if he were out for 
his daily airing in the INIall. But now the shock 
which had come upon him was so great that he 
could only stand with white cheeks and staring, 
incredulous eyes. Twice I saw him open his 
hps, and twice he put his hand up to his throat, 
as though a barrier had risen betwixt himself and 
his utterance. Finally, he took a sudden little 
run forward with both his hands thrown out in 
greeting. 

" Ned ! " he cried. 

But the strange man who stood before him 
folded his arms over his breast. 

" No, Charles," said he. 

My uncle stopped and looked at him in amaze- 
ment. 

360 



LORD AVON 

" Surely, Ned, you have a greeting for me 
after all these years ? " 

"You believed me to have done this deed, 
Charles. I read it in your eyes and in your 
manner on that terrible morning. You never 
asked me for an explanation. You never con- 
sidered how impossible such a crime must be for 
a man of my character. At the first breath of 
suspicion you, my intimate friend, the man who 
knew me best, set me down as a thief and a 
murderer." 

" No, no, Ned." 

" You did, Charles ; I read it in your eyes. 
And so it was that when I wished to leave that 
which was most precious to me in safe hands I 
had to pass you over and to place him in the 
charge of the one man who from the first never 
doubted my innocence. Better a thousand times 
that my son should be brought up in a humble 
station and in ignorance of his unfortunate father, 
than that he should learn to share the doubts and 
suspicions of his equals." 

" Then he is really your son ! " cried my uncle, 
staring at Jim in amazement. 

For answer the man stretched out his long 
withered arm, and placed a gaunt hand upon the 
shoulder of the actress, whilst she looked up at 
him with love in her eyes. 

" I married, Charles, and I kept it secret from 

361 



RODNEY STONE 

my friends, for I had chosen my wife outside our 
own circles. You know the foohsh pride which 
has always been the strongest part of my nature. 
I could not bear to avow that which I had done. 
It was this neglect upon my part which led to an 
estrangement between us, and drove her into 
habits for which it is I who am to blame and not 
she. Yet on account of these same habits I took 
the child from her and gave her an allowance on 
condition that she did not interfere with it. I 
had feared that the boy might receive evil from 
her, and had never dreamed in my blindness that 
she might get good from him. But I have 
learned in my miserable life, Charles, that there 
is a power which fashions things for us, though 
we may strive to thwart it, and that we are in 
truth driven by an unseen current towards a cer- 
tain goal, however much we may deceive our- 
selves into thinking that it is our own sails and 
oars which are speeding us upon our way." 

My eyes had been upon the face of my uncle 
as he listened, but now as I turned them from 
him they fell once more upon the thin, wolfish 
face of Sir Lothian Hume. He stood near the 
window, his grey silhouette thrown up against 
the square of dusty glass ; and I have never seen 
such a play of evil passions, of anger, of jealousy, 
of disappointed greed upon a human face before. 

" Am I to understand," said he, in a loud, 

362 



it 



LORD AVON 

harsh voice, " that this young man claims to be 
the heir of the peerage of Avon ? " 
He is my lawful son." 

I knew you fairly well, sir, in our youth ; 
but you will allow me to observe that neither I 
nor any friend of yours ever heard of a wife or 
a son. I defy Sir Charles Tregellis to say that 
he ever dreamed that there was any heir except 
myself" 

" I have already explained. Sir Lothian, why 
I kept my marriage secret." 

" You have explained, sir ; but it is for others 
in another place to say if that explanation is sat- 
isfactory." 

Two blazing dark eyes flashed out of the pale 
haggard face with as strange and sudden an ef- 
fect as if a stream of light were to beat through 
the windows of a shattered and ruined house. 

" You dare to doubt my word ? " 

" I demand a proof." 

" My word is proof to those who know me." 

" Excuse me. Lord Avon ; but I know you, 
and I see no reason why I should accept your 
statement." 

It was a brutal speech, and brutally delivered. 
Lord Avon staggered forward, and it was only 
his son on one side and his wife on the other 
who kept his quivering hands from the throat of 
his insulter. Sir Lothian recoiled from the pale 

24 363 



RODNEY STONE 

fierce face with the black brows, but he still 
glared angrily about the room, 

" A very pretty conspiracy this," he cried, 
" with a criminal, an actress, and a prize-fighter 
all playing their parts. Sir Charles Tregellis, 
you shall hear from me again ! And you also, 
my lord ! " He turned upon his heel and strode 
from the room. 

" He has gone to denounce me," said Lord 
Avon, a spasm of wounded pride distorting his 
features. 

" Shall I bring him back ? " cried Boy Jim. 

" No, no, let him go. It is as well, for I have 
already made up my mind that my duty to you, 
my son, outweighs that which I owe, and have 
at such bitter cost fulfilled, to my brother and 
my family." 

"You did me an injustice, Ned," said my 
uncle, " if you thought that I had forgotten you, 
or that I had judged you unkindly. If ever I 
have thought that you had done this deed — and 
how could I doubt the evidence of my own eyes 
— I have always believed that it was at a time 
when your mind was unhinged, and when you 
knew no more of what you were about than the 
man who is walking in his sleep." 

"What do you mean when you talk about 
the evidence of your own eyes ? " asked Lord 
Avon, looking hard at my uncle. 

364 



LORD AVON 

" I saw you, Ned, upon that accursed night." 

" Saw me ? Where ? " 

" In the passage." 

" And doing what ? " 

*' You were coming from your brother's room. 
I had heard his voice raised in anger and pain 
only an instant before. You carried in your 
hand a bag full of money, and your face betrayed 
the utmost agitation. If you can but explain to 
me, Ned, how you came to be there, you will 
take from my heart a weight which has pressed 
upon it for all these years." 

No one now would have recognized in my 
uncle the man who was the leader of all the fops 
of London. In the presence of this old friend 
and of the tragedy which girt him round, the 
veil of triviality and affectation had been rent, 
and I felt all my gratitude towards him deepen- 
ing for the first time into affection whilst I 
watched his pale, anxious face, and the eager 
hope which shone in his eyes as he awaited his 
friend's explanation. Lord Avon sank his face 
in his hands, and for a few moments there was 
silence in the dim grey room. 

" I do not wonder now that you were shaken," 

said he at last. " My God, what a net was cast 

round me ! Had this vile charge been brought 

against me, you, my dearest friend, would have 

been compelled to tear away the last doubt as to 

365 



RODNEY STONE 

my guilt. And yet, in spite of what you have 
seen, Charles, I am as innocent in the matter as 
you are." 

" I thank God that I hear you say so." 

"But you are not satisfied, Charles. I can 
read it on your face. You wish to know why 
an innocent man should conceal himself for all 
these years." 

" Your word is enough for me, Ned ; but the 
world will wish this other question answered 
also." 

" It was to save the family honour, Charles. 
You know how dear it was to me. I could not 
clear myself without proving my brother to have 
been guilty of the foulest crime which a gentle- 
man could commit. For eighteen years I have 
screened him at the expense of everything which 
a man could sacrifice. I have lived a living 
death which has left me an old and shattered 
man when I am but in my fortieth year. But 
now when I am faced with the alternative of 
telling the facts about my brother, or of wrong- 
ing my son, I can only act in one fashion, and 
the more so since I have reason to hope that a 
way may be found by which what I am now 
about to disclose to you need never come to the 
public ear." 

He rose from his chair, and leaning heavily 
upon his two supporters, he tottered across the 

366 



LORD AVON 

room to the dust-covered sideboard. There, in 
the centre of it, was lying that ill-boding pile of 
time-stained, mildewed cards, just as Boy Jim 
and I had seen them years before. Lord Avon 
turned them over with trembling fingers, and 
then picking up half a dozen, he brought them 
to my uncle. 

*' Place your finger and thumb upon the left- 
hand bottom corner of this card, Charles," said 
he. " Pass them lightly backwards and for- 
wards, and tell me what you feel." 

" It has been pricked with a pin." 

" Precisely. What is the card ? " 

My uncle turned it over. 

" It is the king of clubs." 

" Try the bottom corner of this one." 

"It is quite smooth." 

" And the card is ? " 

*' The three of spades." 

"And this one?" 

"It has been pricked. It is the ace of 
hearts." 

Lord Avon hurled them down upon the 
floor. 

" There you have the whole accursed story ! " 
he cried. " Need I go further where every word 
is an agony ? " 

" I see something, but not all. You must 
continue, Ned." 

367 



KODNEY STONE 

The frail figure stiffened itself, as though he 
were visibly bracing himself for an effort. 

" I will tell it you, then, once and for ever. 
Never again, I trust, will it be necessary for me 
to open my lips about the miserable business. 
You remember our game. You remember how 
we lost. You remember how you all retired, 
and left me sitting in this very room, and at that 
very table. Far from being tired, I was exceed- 
ingly wakeful, and I remained here for an hour 
or more thinking over the incidents of the game 
and the changes which it promised to bring 
about in my fortunes. I had, as you will recol- 
lect, lost heavily, and my only consolation was 
that my own brother had won. I knew that, 
owing to his reckless mode of life, he was firmly 
in the clutches of the Jews, and I hoped that 
that which had shaken my position might have 
the effect of restoring his. As I sat there, fin- 
gering the cards in an abstracted way, some 
chance led me to observe the small needle-pricks 
which you have just felt. I went over the 
packs, and found, to my unspeakable horror, 
that any one who w^as in the secret could hold 
them in dealing in such a way as to be able to 
count the exact number of high cards which fell 
to each of his opponents. And then, with such 
a flush of shame and disgust as I had never 
known, I remembered how my attention had 

368 



LORD AVON 

been drawn to my brother's mode of dealing, its 
slowness, and the way in which he held each 
card by the lower corner. 

" I did not condemn him precipitately. I sat 
for a long time calling to mind every incident 
which could tell one way or the other. Alas ! 
it all went to confirm me in my first horrible 
suspicion, and to turn it into a certainty. INIy 
brother had ordered the packs from Ledbury's, 
in Bond Street. They had been for some hours 
in his chambers. He had played throughout 
with a decision which had surprised us at the 
time. Above all, I could not conceal from my- 
self that his past life was not such as to make 
even so abominable a crime as this impossible to 
him. Tingling with anger and shame, I went 
straight up that stair, the cards in my hand, and 
I taxed him with this lowest and meanest of aU 
the crimes to which a viUain could descend. 

"He had not retired to rest, and his ill-gotten 
gains were spread out upon the dressing-table. 
I hardly know what I said to him, but the facts 
were so deadly that he did not attempt to deny 
his guilt. You will remember, as the only miti- 
gation of his crime, that he was not yet one and 
twenty years of age. JNIy words overwhelmed 
him. He went on his knees to me, imploring 
me to spare him. I told him that out of con- 
sideration for our family I should make no pub- 

3G9 



RODNEY STONE 

lie exposure of him, but that he must never again 
in his hfe lay his hand upon a card, and that the 
money which he had won must be returned next 
morning with an explanation. It would be so- 
cial ruin, he protested. I answered that he must 
take the consequence of his own deed. Then and 
there I burned the papers which he had won from 
me, and I replaced in a canvas bag which lay 
upon the table all the gold pieces. I would have 
left the room without another word, but he clung 
to me, and tore the ruffle from my wrist in his 
attempt to hold me back, and to prevail upon 
me to promise to say nothing to you or Sir Lo- 
thian Hume. It was his despairing cry, when he 
found that I was proof against all his entreaties, 
which reached your ears, Charles, and caused you 
to open your chamber door and to see me as I 
returned to my room." 

My uncle drew a long sigh of relief. 

" Nothing could be clearer ! " he murmured. 

"In the morning I came, as you remember, to 
your room, and I returned your money. I did 
the same to Sir Lothian Hume. I said nothing 
of my reasons for doing so, for I found that I 
could not bring myself to confess our disgrace to 
you. Then came the horrible discovery which 
has darkened my life, and which was as great a 
mystery to me as it has been to you. I saw that 
I was suspected, and I saw, also, that even if I 

370 



LORD AVON 

were to clear myself, it could only be done by a 
public confession of the infamy of my brother. 
I shrank from it, Charles. Any personal suffer- 
ing seemed to me to be better than to bring pub- 
lic shame upon a family which has held an un- 
tarnished record through so many centuries. I 
fled from my trial, therefore, and disappeared 
from the world. 

" But, first of all, it was necessary that I should 
make arrangements for the wife and the son, of 
whose existence you and my other friends were ig- 
norant. It is with shame, Mary, that I confess 
it, and I acknowledge to you that the blame of all 
the consequences rests with me rather than with 
you. At the time there were reasons, now hap- 
pily long gone past, which made me determine 
that the son was better apart from the mother, 
whose absence at that age he would not miss. 
I would have taken you into my confidence, 
Charles, had it not been that your suspicions had 
wounded me deeply — for I did not at that time 
understand how strong the reasons were which 
had prejudiced you against me. 

" On the evening after the tragedy I fled to 
London, and arranged that my wife should have 
a fitting allowance on condition that she did not 
interfere with the child. I had, as you remem- 
ber, had much to do with Harrison, the prize- 
fighter, and I had often had occasion to admire 

371 



RODNEY STONE 

his simple and honest nature. I took my boy 
to him now, and I found liim, as I expected, in- 
credulous as to my guilt, and ready to assist me 
in any way. At his wife's entreaty he had just 
retired from the ring, and was uncertain how he 
should employ himself. I was able to fit him up 
as a smith, on condition that he should ply his 
trade at the village of Friar's Oak. My agree- 
ment was that James was to be brought up as 
their nephew, and that he should know nothing 
of his unhappy parents. 

*' You will ask me why I selected Friar's Oak. 
It was because I had already chosen my place 
of concealment ; and if I could not see my boy, 
it was, at least, some consolation to know that he 
was near me. You are aware that this mansion 
is one of the oldest in England ; but you are not 
aware that it has been built with a very special 
eye to concealment, that there are no less than 
two habitable secret chambers, and that the outer 
or thicker walls are tunnelled into passages. 
The existence of these rooms has always been a 
family secret, though it was one which I valued 
so little that it was only the chance of my seldom 
using the house which had prevented me from 
pointing them out to some friend. Now I found 
that a secure retreat was provided for me in my 
extremity. I stole down to my own mansion, 
entered it at night, and, leaving all that was 

372 



LORD AVON 

dear to me behind, I crept like a rat behind 
the wainscot, to Hve out the remainder of my 
weary life in solitude and misery. In this 
worn face, Charles, and in this grizzled hair, 
you may read the diary of my most miserable 
existence. 

" Once a week Harrison used to bring me up 
provisions, passing them through the pantry win- 
dow, which I left open for the purpose. Some- 
times I would steal out at night and walk under 
the stars once more, with the cool breeze upon 
my forehead ; but this I had at last to stop, for I 
was seen by the rustics, and rumours of a spirit 
at ClifFe Royal began to get about. One night 
two ghost-hunters " 

" It was I, father," cried Boy Jim ; " I and my 
friend, Rodney Stone." 

" I know it was. Harrison told me so the 
same night. I was proud, James, to see that 
you had the spirit of the Barringtons, and that I 
had an heir whose gallantry might redeem the 
family blot which I have striven so hard to cover 
over. Then came the day when your mother's 
kindness — her mistaken kindness — gave you the 
means of escaping to London." 

" Ah, Edward," cried his wife, " if you had 
seen our boy, Uke a caged eagle, beating against 
the bars, you would have helped to give him 
even so short a flight as this." 



RODNEY STONE 

*' I do not blame you, Mary. It is possible 
that I should have done so. He went to Lon- 
don, and he tried to open a career for himself by 
his own strength and courage. How many of 
our ancestors have done the same, save only that 
a sword-hilt lay in their closed hands ; but of 
them all I do not know that any have carried 
themselves more gallantly ! " 

" That I dare swear," said my uncle, heartily. 

" And then, when Harrison at last returned, I 
learned that my son was actually matched to 
fight in a public prize-battle. That would not 
do, Charles ! It was one thing to fight as you 
and I have fought in our youth, and it was 
another to compete for a purse of gold." 

" My dear friend, I would not for the 
world " 

" Of course you would not, Charles. You 
chose the best man, and how could you do other- 
wise ? But it would not do ! I determined that 
the time had come when I should reveal myself 
to my son, the more so as there were many signs 
that my most unnatural existence had seriously 
weakened my health. Chance, or shall I not 
rather say Providence, had at last made clear all 
that had been dark, and given me the means of 
establishing my innocence. My wife went yes- 
terday to bring my boy at last to the side of his 
unfortunate father." 

374 



LORD AVON 

There was silence for some time, and then it 
was my uncle's voice which broke it. 

" You've been the most ill-used man in the 
world, Ned," said he. " Please God we shall 
have many years yet in which to make up to 
you for it. But, after all, it seems to me that 
we are as far as ever from learning how your un- 
fortunate brother met his death." 

" For eighteen years it was as much a mystery 
to me as to you, Charles. But now at last the 
guilt is manifest. Stand forward, Ambrose, and 
tell your story as frankly and as fully as you have 
told it to me." 



375 



CHAPTER XXI 
THE VALET'S STORY 

The valet had shrunk into the dark corner of 
the room, and had remained so motionless that 
we had forgotten his presence until, upon this 
appeal from his former master, he took a step 
forward into the light, turning his sallow face in 
our direction. His usually impassive features 
were in a state of painful agitation, and he spoke 
slowly and with hesitation, as though his trem- 
bling lips could hardly frame the words. And 
yet, so strong is habit, that, even in this extrem- 
ity of emotion, he assumed the deferential air of 
the high-class valet, and his sentences formed 
themselves in the sonorous fashion which had 
struck my attention upon that first day when the 
curricle of my uncle had stopped outside my 
father's door. 

" My Lady Avon and gentlemen," said he, " if 
I have sinned in this matter, and I freely confess 
that I have done so, I only know one way in 
which I can atone for it, and that is by making 
the full and complete confession which my noble 
master, Lord Avon, has demanded. I assure 
you, then, that what I am about to tell you, 

376 



THE VALET'S STORY 

surprising as it may seem, is the absolute and 
undeniable truth concerning the mysterious death 
of Captain Barrington. 

" It may seem impossible to you that one in 
my humble walk of life should bear a deadly and 
implacable hatred against a man in the posi- 
tion of Captain Barrington. You think that the 
gulf between is too wide. I can tell you, gentle- 
men, that the gulf which can be bridged by un- 
lawful love can be spanned also by an unlawful 
hatred, and that upon the day when this young 
man stole from me all that made my life worth 
living, I vowed to Heaven that I should take 
from him that foul life of his, though the deed 
would cover but the tiniest fraction of the debt 
which he owed me. I see that you look askance 
at me. Sir Charles Tregellis, but you should pray 
to God, sir, that you may never have the chance 
of finding out what you would yourself be capa- 
ble of in the same position." 

It was a wonder to all of us to see this man's 
fiery nature breaking suddenly through the arti- 
ficial constraints with which he held it in check. 
His short dark hair seemed to bristle upwards, 
his eyes glowed with the intensity of his passion, 
and his face expressed a malignity of hatred 
which neither the death of his enemy nor the 
lapse of years could mitigate. The demure ser- 
vant was gone, and there stood in his place a 

377 



RODNEY STONE 

deep and dangerous man, one who might be an 
ardent lover or a most vindictive foe. 

" We were about to be married, she and I, 
when some black chance threw him across our 
path. I do not know by what base deceptions 
he lured her away from me. I have heard that 
she was only one of many, and that he was an 
adept at the art. It was done before ever I 
knew the danger, and she was left with her 
broken heart and her ruined hfe to return to 
that home into which she had brought disgrace 
and misery. I only saw her once. She told me 
that her seducer had burst out a-laughing when 
she had reproached him for his perfidy, and I 
swore to her that his heart's blood should pay 
me for that laugh. 

" I was a valet at the time, but I was not yet 
in the service of Lord Avon. I applied for and 
gained that position with the one idea that it 
might give me an opportunity of setthng my 
accounts with his younger brother. And yet 
my chance was a terribly long time coming, for 
many months had passed before the visit to 
Cliife Royal gave me the opportunity which I 
longed for by day and dreamed of by night. 
When it did come, however, it came in a fashion 
which was more favourable to my plans than 
anything that I had ever ventured to hope for. 

" Lord Avon was of opinion that no one but 

378 



THE VALET'S STORY 

himself knew of the secret passages in Chffe 
Royal. In this he was mistaken. I knew of 
them — or, at least, I knew enough of them to 
serve my purpose. I need not tell you how, 
one day, when preparing the chambers for the 
guests, an accidental pressure upon part of the 
fittings caused a panel to gape in the woodwork, 
and showed me a narrow opening in the wall. 
Making my way down this, I found that another 
panel led into a larger bedroom beyond. That 
was all I knew, but it was all that was needed 
for my purpose. The disposal of the rooms had 
been left in my hands, and I arranged that Cap- 
tain Barrington should sleep in the larger and I 
in the smaller. I could come upon him when I 
wished, and no one would be the wiser. 

" And then he arrived. How can I describe 
to you the fever of impatience in which I lived 
until the moment should come for which I had 
waited and planned. For a night and a day 
they gambled, and for a night and a day I 
counted the minutes which brought me nearer 
to my man. They might ring for fresh wine at 
what hour they liked, they always found me 
waiting and ready, so that this young captain 
hiccoughed out that I was the model of all 
valets. My master advised me to go to bed. 
He had noticed my flushed cheek and my bright 
eyes, and he set me down as being in a fever. 

25 379 



RODNEY STONE 

So I was, but it was a fever which only one 
medicine could assuage. 

" Then at last, very early in the morning, I 
heard them push back their chairs, and I knew 
that their game had at last come to an end. 
When I entered the room to receive my orders, 
I found that Captain Barrington had akeady 
stumbled off to bed. The others had also re- 
tired, and my master was sitting alone at the 
table, with his empty bottle and the scattered 
cards in front of him. He ordered me angrily 
to my room, and this time I obeyed him. 

" JNIy first care was to provide myself with a 
weapon. I knew that if I were face to face 
with him I could tear his throat out, but I must 
so arrange that the fashion of his death should 
be a noiseless one. There was a hunting trophy 
in the hall, and from it I took a straight heavy 
knife which I sharpened upon my boot. Then 
I stole to my room, and sat waiting upon the 
side of my bed. I had made up my mind what 
I should do. There would be little satisfaction 
in killing him if he was not to know whose hand 
had struck the blow, or which of his sins it came 
to avenge. Could I but bind him and gag him 
in his drunken sleep, then a prick or two of my 
dagger would arouse him to listen to what I had 
to say to him. I pictured the look in his eyes 
as the haze of sleep cleared slowly away from 

380 



THE VALET'S STORY 

them, the look of anger turning suddenly to 
stark horror as he understood who I was and 
what I had come for. It would be the supreme 
moment of my life. 

" I waited as it seemed to me for at least an 
hour ; but I had no watch, and my impatience 
was such that I dare say it really was little more 
than a quarter of that time. Then I rose, re- 
moved my shoes, took my knife, and having 
opened the panel, slipped silently through. It 
was not more than thirty feet that I had to go, 
but I went inch by inch, for the old rotten 
boards snapped hke breaking twigs if a sudden 
weight was placed upon them. It was, of 
course, pitch dark, and very, very slowly I felt 
my way along. At last I saw a yellow seam of 
light glimmering in front of me, and I knew that 
it came from the other panel. I was too soon, 
then, since he had not extinguished his candles. 
I had waited many months, and I could afford 
to wait another hour, for I did not wish to do 
anything precipitately or in a hurry. 

" It was very necessary to move silently now, 
since I was within a few feet of my man, with 
only the thin wooden partition between. Age 
had warped and cracked the boards, so that when 
I had at last very stealthily crept my way as far 
as the sliding-panel, I found that I could, with- 
out any difficulty, see into the room. Captain 

381 



RODNEY STONE 

Barrington was standing by the dressing-table 
with his coat and vest off. A large pile of sov- 
ereigns, and several slips of paper were lying be- 
fore him, and he was counting over his gambling 
gains. His face was flushed, and he was heavy 
from want of sleep and from wine. It rejoiced 
me to see it, for it meant that his slumber would 
be deep, and that aU would be made easy for me. 
" I was stiU watching him, when of a sudden 
I saw him start, and a terrible expression come 
upon his face. For an instant my heart stood 
still, for I feared that he had in some way divined 
my presence. And then I heard the voice of 
my master within. I could not see the door by 
which he had entered, nor could I see him where 
he stood, but I heard all that he had to say. As 
I watched the captain's face flush fiery-red, and 
then turn to a livid white as he listened to those 
bitter words which told him of his infamy, my 
revenge was sweeter — far sweeter — than my 
most pleasant dreams had ever pictured it. I 
saw my master approach the dressing-table, hold 
the papers in the flame of the candle, throw their 
charred ashes into the grate, and sweep the 
golden pieces into a small brown canvas bag. 
Then, as he turned to leave the room, the cap- 
tain seized him by the wrist, imploring him, by 
the memory of their mother, to have mercy upon 

him ; and I loved my master as I saw him drag 

382 



THE VALET'S STORY 

his sleeve from the grasp of the clutching fin- 
gers, and leave the stricken wretch grovelling 
upon the floor. 

" And now I was left with a difficult point 
to settle, for it was hard for me to say whether 
it was better that I should do that which I had 
come for, or whether, by holding this man's 
guilty secret, I might not have in my hand a 
keener and more deadly weapon than my mas- 
ter's hunting-knife. I was sure that Lord Avon 
could not and would not expose him. I knew 
your sense of family pride too well, my lord, and 
I was certain that his secret was safe in your 
hands. But I both could and would ; and then, 
when his life had been blasted, and he had been 
hounded from his regiment and from his clubs, 
it would be time, perhaps, for me to deal in some 
other way with him." 

" Ambrose, you are a black villain," said my 
uncle. 

" We all have our own feelings, Sir Charles ; 
and you will permit me to say that a serving- 
man may resent an injury as much as a gentle- 
man, though the redress of the duel is denied 
to him. But I am telling you frankly, at Lord 
Avon's request, all that I thought and did upon 
that night, and I shall continue to do so, even if I 
am not fortunate enougli to win your approval. 

" When Lord Avon had left him, the captain 

383 



RODNEY STONE 

remained for some time in a kneeling attitude, 
with his face sunk upon a chair. Then he rose, 
and paced slowly up and down the room, his 
chin sunk upon his breast. Every now and 
tlien he would pluck at his hair, or shake his 
clenched hands in the air ; and I saw the moist- 
ure ghsten upon his brow. For a time I lost 
sight of him, and I heard him opening drawer 
after drawer, as though he were in search of 
something. Then he stood over by his dressing- 
table again, with his back turned to me. His 
head was thrown a little back, and he had both 
hands up to the collar of his shirt, as though he 
were striving to undo it. And then there was 
a gush as if a ewer had been upset, and down he 
sank upon the ground, with his head in the 
corner, twisted round at so strange an angle to 
his shoulders that one glimpse of it told me that 
my man was slipping swiftly from the clutch in 
which I had fancied that I held him. I slid my 
panel, and was in the room in an instant. His 
eyehds still quivered, and it seemed to me, as 
my gaze met his glazing eyes, that I could read 
both recognition and surprise in them. I laid 
my knife upon the floor, and I stretched myself 
out beside him, that I might whisper in his ear 
one or two little things of which I wished to re- 
mmd him ; but even as I did so, he gave a gasp 

and was gone. 

384 



THE VALET'S STORY 

" It is singular that I, who had never feared 
him in hfe, should be frightened at him now, 
and yet when I looked at him, and saw that all 
was motionless save the creeping stain upon the 
carpet, I was seized with a sudden foohsh spasm 
of terror, and, catching up my knife, I fled 
swiftly and silently back to my own room, clos- 
ing the panels behind me. It was only when 
I had reached it that I found that in my mad 
haste I had carried away, not the hunting-knife 
which I had taken with me, but the bloody 
razor which had dropped from the dead man's 
hand. This I concealed where no one has ever 
discovered it ; but my fears would not allow me 
to go back for the other, as I might perhaps have 
done, had I foreseen how terribly its presence 
might tell against my master. And that. Lady 
Avon and gentlemen, is an exact and honest ac- 
count of how Captain Barrington came by his end." 

" And how was it," asked my uncle, angrily, 
" that you have allowed an innocent man to be 
persecuted all these years, when a word from 
you might have saved him ? " 

" Because I had every reason to believe, Sir 
Charles, that that would be most unwelcome to 
Lord Avon. How could I tell all this without 
revealing the family scandal which he was so 
anxious to conceal? I confess that at the be- 
ginning I did not tell him what I had seen, and 

385 



RODNEY STONE 

my excuse must be that he disappeared before I 
had time to determine what I should do. For 
many a year, however — ever since I have been 
in your service, Sir Charles — my conscience tor- 
mented me, and I swore that if ever I should 
find my old master, I should reveal everything 
to him. The chance of my overhearing a story 
told by young Mr. Stone here, which showed me 
that some one was using the secret chambers of 
ClifFe Royal, convinced me that Lord Avon was 
in hiding there, and I lost no time in seeking 
him out and offering to do him all the justice in 
my power." 

" What he says is true," said his master ; " but 
it would have been strange indeed if I had hesi- 
tated to sacrifice a frail hfe and failing health in 
a cause for which I freely surrendered all that 
youth had to offer. But new considerations have 
at last compelled me to alter my resolution. My 
son, through ignorance of his true position, was 
drifting into a course of life which accorded with 
his strength and his spirit, but not with the tradi- 
tions of his house. Again, I reflected that many 
of those who knew my brother had passed away, 
that all the facts need not come out, and that 
my death whilst under the suspicion of such a 
crime would cast a deeper stain upon our name 
than the sin which he had so terribly expiated. 
For these reasons " 

386 



THE VALET'S STORY 

The tramp of several heavy footsteps rever- 
berating through the old house broke in suddenly 
upon Lord Avon's w^ords. His wan face turned 
even a shade greyer as he heard it, and he looked 
piteously to his wife and son. 

" They will arrest me ! " he cried. " I must 
submit to the degradation of an arrest." 

" This way, Sir James ; this way," said the 
harsh tones of Sir Lothian Hume from without. 

" I do not need to be shown the way in a 
house where I have drunk many a bottle of good 
claret," cried a deep voice in reply ; and there in 
the doorway stood the broad figure of Squire 
Ovington in his buckskins and top-boots, a rid- 
ing-crop in his hand. Sir Lothian Hume was at 
his elbow, and I saw the faces of two country 
constables peeping over his shoulders. 

" Lord Avon," said the squire, " as a magistrate 
of the county of Sussex, it is my duty to tell you 
that a warrant is held against you for the wilful 
murder of your brother. Captain Barrington, in 
the year 1786." 

" I am ready to answer the charge." 

" This I tell you as a magistrate. But as a 
man, and the Squire of Rougham Grange, I'm 
right glad to see you, Ned, and here's my hand 
on it, and never will 1 believe that a good Tory 
like yourself, and a man who could show his 
horse's tail to any field in the whole Down 

387 



RODNEY STONE 

county, would ever be capable of so vile an 
act." 

" You do me justice, James," said Lord Avon, 
clasping the broad, brown hand which the coun- 
try squire had held out to him. " 1 am as inno- 
cent as you are ; and I can prove it." 

" Damned glad I am to hear it, Ned ! That 
is to say, I^ord Avon, that any defence which 
you may have to make will be decided upon 
by your peers and by the laws of your coun- 
try." 

" Until which time," added Sir Lothian Hume, 
" a stout door and a good lock will be the best 
guarantee that Lord Avon will be there when 
called for." 

The squire's weather-stained face flushed to a 
deeper red as he turned upon the Londoner. 

"Are you the magistrate of a county, sir ? " 

" I have not the honour. Sir James." 

" Then how dare you advise a man who has 
sat on the bench for nigh twenty years ! When 
I am in doubt, sir, the law provides me with a 
clerk with whom I may confer, and I ask no 
other assistance." 

" You take too high a tone in this matter, Sir 
James. I am not accustomed to be taken to task 
so sharply." 

" Nor am I accustomed, sir, to be interfered 
with in my official duties. I speak as a magis- 

388 



THE VALET'S STORY 

trate, Sir Lothian, but I am always ready to sus- 
tain my opinions as a man." 

Sir Lothian bowed. 

" You will allow me to observe, sir, that I have 
personal interests of the highest importance in- 
volved in this matter. I have every reason to 
believe that there is a conspiracy afoot which 
will affect my position as heir to Lord Avon's 
titles and estates. I desire his safe custody in 
order that this matter may be cleared up, and I 
call upon you, as a magistrate, to execute your 
warrant." 

" Plague take it, Ned ! " cried the squire, " I 
would that my clerk Johnson were here, for I 
would deal as kindly by you as the law allows ; 
and yet I am, as you hear, called upon to secure 
your person." 

" Permit me to suggest, sir," said my uncle, 
" that so long as he is under the personal super- 
vision of the magistrate, he may be said to be 
under the care of the law, and that this condition 
will be fulfilled if he is under the roof of Rough- 
am Grange." 

" Nothing could be better," cried the squire, 
heartily. " You will stay with me, Ned, until 
this matter blows over. In other words. Lord 
Avon, I make myself responsible, as the repre- 
sentative of the law, that you are held in safe 

custody until your person may be required of me." 

389 



RODNEY STONE 

" Yours is a true heart, James." 

" Tut, tut ! it is the due process of the law. I 
trust, Sir Lothian Hume, that you find nothing 
to object to in it ? " 

Sir Lothian shrugged his shoulders, and looked 
blackly at the magistrate. Then he turned to 
my uncle. 

"There is a small matter still open between 
us," said he. *' Would you kindly give me the 
name of a friend ? Mr. Corcoran, who is outside 
in my barouche, would act for me, and we might 
meet to-morrow morning." 

"With pleasure," answered my uncle. "I 
dare say your father would act for me, nephew ? 
Your friend may call upon Lieutenant Stone, of 
Friar's Oak, and the sooner the better." 

And so this strange conference ended. As 
for me, I had sprung to the side of the old friend 
of my boyhood, and was trying to tell him my 
joy at his good fortune, and listening to his 
assurance that nothing that could ever befall 
him could weaken the love that he bore me. 
My uncle touched me on the shoulder, and we 
were about to leave, when Ambrose, whose 
bronze mask had been drawn down once more 
over his fiery passions, came demurely towards 
him. 

"Beg your pardon, Sir Charles," said he ; "but 
it shocks me very much to see your cravat." 

390 



THE VALET'S STORY 

" You are right, Ambrose," my uncle answered. 
" Lorimer does his best, but I have never been 
able to fill your place." 

" I should be proud to serve you, sir ; but you 
must acknowledge that Lord Avon has the prior 
claim. If he will release me " 

" You may go, Ambrose ; you may go ! " 
cried Lord Avon. " You are an excellent ser- 
vant, but your presence has become painful to 

i> 

me. 

" Thank you, Ned," said my uncle. " But you 
must not leave me so suddenly again, Ambrose." 

" Permit me to explain the reason, sir. I had 
determined to give you notice when we reached 
Brighton ; but as we drove from the village that 
day, I caught a glimpse of a lady passing in a 
phaeton between whom and Lord Avon I was 
well aware there was a close intimacy, although 
I was not certain that she was actually his wife. 
Her presence there confirmed me in my opinion 
that he was in hiding at CHfFe Royal, and I 
dropped from your curricle and followed her at 
once, in order to lay the matter before her, and 
explain how very necessary it was that Lord 
Avon should see me." 

" Well, I forgive you for your desertion, Am- 
brose," said my uncle ; " and," he added, " I 
should be vastly obliged to you if you would re- 
arrange my tie." 

391 



CHAPTER XXII 
THE END 






Sir James Ovington's carriage was waiting 
without, and in it the Avon family, so tragically 
separated and so strangely re-united, were borne 
away to the squire's hospitable home. When 
they had gone, my uncle mounted his curricle, 
and drove Ambrose and myself to the village. 

" We had best see your father at once, 
nephew," said he. " Sir Lothian and his man 
started some time ago. I should be sorry if 
there should be any hitch in our meeting." 

For my part, I was thinking of our opponent's 
deadly reputation as a duellist, and I suppose 
that my features must have betrayed my feel- 
ings, for my uncle began to laugh. 

" Why, nephew," said he, " you look as if you 
were walking behind my coffin. It is not my 
first affair, and I dare bet that it will not be my 
last. When I fight near town I usually fire a 
hundred or so in Manton's back shop, but I dare 
say I can find my way to his waistcoat. But I 
confess that I am somewhat accable, by all that 
has befallen us. To think of my dear old friend 
being not only alive, but innocent as well ! And 

392 



THE END 

that he should have such a strapping son and 
heir to carry on the race of Avon ! This will be 
the last blow to Hume, for I know that the Jews 
have given him rope on the score of his expec- 
tations. And you, Ambrose, that you should 
break out in such a way ! " 

Of all the amazing things which had happened, 
this seemed to have impressed my uncle most, 
and he recurred to it again and again. That a 
man whom he had come to regard as a machine 
for tying cravats and brewing chocolate should 
suddenly develop fiery human passions was in- 
deed a prodigy. If his silver razor-heater had 
taken to evil ways he could not have been more 
astounded. 

We were still a hundred yards from the cot- 
tage when I saw the tall, green-coated JVIr. Cor- 
coran striding down the garden path. JNIy 
father was waiting for us at the door with an 
expression of subdued dehght upon his face. 

" Happy to serve you in any way, Sir Charles," 
said he. " We've arranged it for to-morrow at 
seven on Ditchling Common." 

" I wish these things could be brought off a 
httle later in the day," said my uncle. " One 
has either to rise at a perfectly absurd hour, or 
else to neglect one's toilet." 

" They are stopping across the road at the Fri- 
ar's Oak Inn, and if you would wish it later " 

393 



RODNEY STONE 



" No, no ; I shall make the effort. Ambrose, 
you will bring up the batterie de toilette at five." 

" I don't know whether you would care to 
use my barkers," said my father. " I've had 'em 
m fourteen actions, and up to thirty yards you 
couldn't wish a better tool." 

" Thank you, I have my duelling pistols under 
the seat. See that the triggers are oiled, Am- 
brose, for I love a light pull. Ah, sister Mary, 
I have brought your boy back to you, none the 
worse, I hope, for the dissipations of town." 

I need not tell you how my dear mother wept 
over me and fondled me, for you who have 
mothers will know for yourselves, and you who 
have not will never understand how warm and 
snug the home nest can be. How I had chafed 
and longed for the wonders of town, and yet, 
now that I had seen more than my wildest dreams 
had ever deemed possible, my eyes had rested 
upon nothing which was so sweet and so restful 
as our own little sitting-room, with its terra- 
cotta-coloured walls, and those trifles which are 
so insignificant in themselves, and yet so rich in 
memories — the blow-fish from the Moluccas, the 
narwhal's horn from the Arctic, and the picture 
of the (7a Ira, with Lord Hotham in chase ! 
How cheery, too, to see at one side of the shining 
grate my father with his pipe and his merry red 
face, and on the other my mother with her fin- 

394 



I 



THE END 

gers ever turning and darting with her knitting- 
needles ! As I looked at them I marvelled that 
I could ever have longed to leave them, or that 
I could bring myself to leave them again. 

But leave them I must, and that speedily, as I 
learned amidst the boisterous congratulations of 
my father and the tears of my mother. He had 
himself been appointed to the Cato, 64, with post 
rank, whilst a note had come from Lord Nelson 
at Portsmouth to say that a vacancy was open 
for me if I should present myself at once. 

" And your mother has your sea-chest all 
ready, my lad, and you can travel down with me 
to-morrow ; for if you are to be one of Nelson's 
men, you must show him that you are worthy 
of it." 

" All the Stones have been in the sea-service," 
said my mother, apologetically to my uncle, " and 
it is a great chance that he should enter under 
Lord Nelson's own patronage. But we can 
never forget your kindness, Charles, in showing 
our dear Rodney something of the world." 

" On the contrary, sister JNIary," said my uncle, 
graciously, " your son has been an excellent com- 
panion to me — so much so that I fear that I am 
open to the charge of having neglected my dear 
Fidelio. I trust that I bring him back somewhat 
more polished than I found him. It would be 
folly to call him distingue, but he is at least un- 

36 395 



RODNEY STONE 

objectionable. Nature has denied him the high- 
est gifts, and I find him adverse to employing 
the compensating advantages of art ; but, at 
least, I have shown him something of life, and I 
have taught him a few lessons in finesse and de- 
portment which may appear to be wasted upon 
him at present, but which, none the less, may 
come back to him in his more mature years. If 
his career in town has been a disappointment to 
me, the reason lies mainly in the fact that I am 
foolish enough to measure others by the standard 
which I have myself set. I am well disposed 
towards him, however, and I consider him emi- 
nently adapted for the profession which he is 
about to adopt." 

He held out his sacred snuff-box to me as he 
spoke, as a solemn pledge of his goodwill, and, as 
I look back at him, there is no moment at which 
I see him more plainly than that with the old 
mischievous light dancing once more in his large 
intolerant eyes, one thumb in the armpit of his 
vest, and the little shining box held out upon his 
snow-white palm. He was a type and leader of 
a strange breed of men which has vanished away 
from England — the full-blooded, virile buck, ex- 
quisite in his dress, narrow in his thoughts, coarse 
in his amusements, and eccentric in his habits. 
They walk across the bright stage of Enghsh 
history with their finicky step, their preposterous 

396 



THE END 

cravats, their high collars, their dangling seals, 
and they vanish into those dark wings from which 
there is no return. The world has outgrown 
them, and there is no place now for their strange 
fashions, their practical jokes, and carefully culti- 
vated eccentricities. And yet behind this outer 
veiling of folly, with which they so carefully 
draped themselves, they were often men of strong 
character and robust personality. The languid 
loungers of St. James's were also the yachtsmen 
of the Solent, the fine riders of the shires, and 
the hardy fighters in many a wayside battle and 
many a morning frolic. Welhngton picked his 
best officers from amongst them. They conde- 
scended occasionally to poetry or oratory ; and 
Byron, Charles James Fox, Sheridan, and Castle- 
reagh, preserved some reputation amongst them, 
in spite of their publicity. I cannot think how 
the historian of the future can hope to under- 
stand them, when I, who knew one of them so 
well, and bore his blood in my veins, could never 
quite tell how much of him was real, and how 
much was due to the affectations which he had 
cultivated so long that they had ceased to 
deserve the name. Through the chinks of that 
armour of folly I have sometimes thought that 
I had caught a glimpse of a good and true 
man within, and it pleases me to hope that I 
was right. 

397 



RODNEY STONE 

It was destined that the exciting incidents of 
that day were even now not at an end. I had 
retired early to rest, but it was impossible for me 
to sleep, for my mind would turn to Boy Jim 
and to the extraordinary change in his position 
and prospects. I was still turning and tossing 
when I heard the sound of flying hoofs coming 
down the London road, and immediately after- 
wards the grating of wheels as they pulled up in 
front of the inn. My window chanced to be 
open, for it was a fresh spring night, and I heard 
the creak of the inn door, and a voice asking 
whether Sir Lothian Hume was within. At the 
name I sprang from my bed, and I was in time 
to see three men, who had ahghted from the 
carriage, file into the Hghted hall. The two 
horses were left standing, with the glare of the 
open door falling upon their brown shoulders and 
patient heads. 

Ten minutes may have passed, and then I 
heard the clatter of many steps, and a knot of 
men came clustering through the door. 

" You need not employ violence," said a harsh, 
clear voice. "On whose suit is it ? 'il^ 

" Several suits, sir. They 'eld over in the 
'opes that you'd pull off the fight this mornin'. 
Total amounts is twelve thousand pound." 

" Look here, my man, I have a very impor- 
tant appointment for seven o'clock to-morrow. 

398 



THE END 

I'll give you fifty pounds if you will leave me 
until then." 

" Couldn't do it, sir, really. It's more than 
our places as sheriff's officers is worth." 

In the yellow glare of the carriage-lamp I saw 
the baronet look up at our windows, and if ha- 
tred could have killed, his eyes would have been 
as deadly as his pistol. 

"I can't mount the carriage unless you free 
my hands," said he. 

" 'Old 'ard. Bill, for 'e looks wicious. Let 
go o' one arm at a time ! Ah, would you 
then ? " 

" Corcoran ! Corcoran ! " screamed a voice, and 
I saw a plunge, a struggle, and one frantic figure 
breaking its way from the rest. Then came a 
heavy blow, and down he fell in the middle of 
the moonlit road, flapping and jumping among 
the dust like a trout new landed. 

" He's napped it this time ! Get 'im by the 
wrists, Jim ! Now, all together ! " 

He was hoisted up like a bag of flour, and fell 
with a brutal thud into the bottom of the car- 
riage. The three men sprang in after him, a 
whip whistled in the darkness, and I had seen 
the last that I or any one else, save some chari- 
table visitor to a debtors' gaol, was ever again 
destined to see of Sir Lothian Hume, the once 

fashionable Corinthian. 

399 



RODNEY STONE 

Lord Avon lived for two years longer — long 
enough, with the help of Ambrose, to fully es- 
tablish his innocence of the horrible crime, in 
the shadow of which he had lived so long. 
What he could not clear away, however, was the 
effect of those years of morbid and unnatural life 
spent in the hidden chambers of the old house ; 
and it was only the devotion of his wife and of 
his son which kept the thin and flickering flame 
of his life alight. She whom I had knoA\Ti as the 
play actress of Anstey Cross became the dowager 
Lady Avon ; whilst Boy Jim, as dear to me now 
as when we harried birds' nests and tickled trout 
together, is now Lord Avon, beloved by his ten- 
antry, the finest sportsman and the most popular 
man from the north of the Weald to the Chan- 
nel. He was married to the second daughter of 
Sir James Ovington ; and as I have seen three 
of his grandchildren within the week, I fancy 
that if any of Sir Lothian's descendants have 
their eye upon the property, they are likely to 
be as disappointed as their ancestor was before 
them. The old house of Cliffe Royal has been 
pulled down, owing to the terrible family asso- 
ciations which hung round it, and a beautiful 
modern building sprang up in its place. The 
lodge which stood by the Brighton Road was 
so dainty with its trellis-work and its rose 
bushes that I was not the only visitor who de- 

400 



THE END 

clared that I had rather be the owner of it than 
of the great house amongst the trees. There for 
many years in a happy and peaceful old age 
lived Jack Harrison and his wife, receiving back 
in the sunset of their lives the loving care which 
they had themselves bestowed. Never again did 
Champion Harrison throw his leg over the ropes 
of a twenty-four- foot ring ; but the story of the 
great battle between the smith and the west- 
countryman is stiU familiar to old ring-goers, 
and nothing pleased him better than to re-fight 
it all, round by round, as he sat in the sunshine 
under his rose-girt porch. But if he heard the 
tap of his wife's stick approaching him, his talk 
would break off at once into the garden and its 
prospects, for she was still haunted by the fear 
that he would some day go back to the ring, 
and she never missed the old man for an hour 
without being convinced that he had hobbled 
off to wrest the belt from the latest upstart 
champion. It was at his own very earnest 
request that they inscribed " He fought the 
good fight" upon his tombstone, and though 
I cannot doubt that he had Black Baruk and 
Crab Wilson in his mind when he asked it, 
yet none who knew him would grudge its spir- 
itual meaning as a summing up of his clean and 
manly life. 

Sir Charles Tregellis continued for some years 

401 



RODNEY STONE 

to show his scarlet and gold at Newmarket, and 
his inimitable coats in St. James's. It was he 
who invented buttons and loops at the ends of 
dress pantaloons, and who broke fresh ground 
by his investigation of the comparative merits 
of isinglass and of starch in the preparation of 
shirt-fronts. There are old fops still lurking in 
the corners of Arthur's or of White's who can 
remember Tregellis's dictum, that a cravat should 
be so stiffened that three parts of the length 
could be raised by one corner, and the painful 
schism which followed when Lord Alvanley and 
his school contended that a half was sufficient. 
Then came the supremacy of Brummell, and the 
open breach upon the subject of velvet collars, 
in which the town followed the lead of the 
younger man. My uncle, who was not born to 
be second to any one, retired instantly to St. 
Albans, and announced that he would make it 
the centre of fashion and of society, instead of 
degenerate London. It chanced, however, that 
the mayor and corporation waited upon him with 
an address of thanks for his good intentions 
towards the town, and that the burgesses, hav- 
ing ordered new coats from London for the 
occasion, were all arrayed in velvet collars, which 
so preyed upon my uncle's spirits that he took 
to his bed, and never showed his face in pubhc 

402 



'X- 



I 



THE END 

again. His money, which had ruined what 
might have been a great hfe, was divided 
amongst many bequests, an annuity to his valet, 
Ambrose, being amongst them ; but enough has 
come to his sister, my dear mother, to help to 
make her old age as sunny and as pleasant as 
even I could wish. 

And as for me — the poor string upon which 

these beads are strung — I dare scarce say another 

word about myself, lest this, which I had meant 

to be the last word of a chapter, should grow 

into the first words of a new one. Had I not 

taken up my pen to tell you a story of the land, 

I might, perchance, have made a better one of 

the sea ; but the one frame cannot hold two 

opposite pictures. The day may come when I 

shall write down all that I remember of the 

greatest battle ever fought upon salt water, and 

how my father's gallant life was brought to an 

end as, with his paint rubbing against a French 

eighty-gun ship on one side and a Spanish 

seventy-four upon the other, he stood eating an 

apple in the break of his poop. I saw the 

smoke banks on that October evening swirl 

slowly up over the Atlantic swell, and rise, and 

rise, until they had shredded into thinnest air, 

and lost themselves in the infinite blue of heaven. 

403 



RODNEY STONE 

And with them rose the cloud which had hung 
over the country ; and it also thinned and 
thinned, until God's own sun of peace and se- 
curity was shining once more upon us, never 
more, we hope, to be bedimmed. 



THE END 



si 



404 



NOTES 

NOTES UPON THE PRIZE-FIGHTERS 
1. Bob Whitaker 

The sequel of Bob Whitaker's fight with the GondoUer (as 
told by old Buckhorse in Chapter X.) may be transcribed 
from the account of Captain Godfrey, the first chronicler of 
the ring. 

*' So fine a house/' says Captain Godfrey, alluding to the 
company which assembled to see Whitaker fight the Gon- 
dolier, " was too engaging to Fig not to count another. He 
therefore stepped up and told the gentlemen that they 
might think he had picked out the best man in London on 
this occasion ; but to convince them to the contrary, he said, 
that if they would come on that day se'nnight, he would 
bring a man who should beat this Whitaker in ten minutes 
by fair hitting. This brought near as great and fine a com- 
pany as the week before. The man was Nathaniel Pear- 
tree, who, knowing the other's bottom, and his deadly way 
of flinging, took a most judicious manner to beat him. Let 
his character come in here. He was an admirable boxer, and 
I do not know one he was not a match for, before he lost his 
finger. He was famous, like Pipes, for fighting at the face, 
but was stronger in his blows. He knew Whitaker's hardi- 
ness, and being doubtful of beating him, cunningly deter- 
mined to fight at his eyes. His judgment carried his arm so 
well, that in about six minutes both of Whitaker's eyes were 
shut ; when, groping about a while for his man, he wisely 

405 



NOTES 

gave out (modemice gave in)^ with these odd words — * Dam- 
me, I'm not beat ; but what signifies my fighting when I 
can't see my man ? ' " 

2. BUCKHORSE 

^'As ugly as Buekhorse " was a phrase in London about 
the middle of the eighteenth century. The unfortunate 
prize-fighter was not a beauty by nature, but as he was in 
the habit, on payment of a trifling fee, of allowing any one 
to knock him down who wished to try the strength of his 
arm, it can be imagined that his appearance at last became 
hardly human. 

Buckhorse's real name was John Smith, and he was born 
in Lewkner's Lane, the vilest corner of London, early in the 
century. His natural humour, his musical powers, and his 
reputation as a fighting-man made the little cockney a noted 
personality. In the intervals of other and less reputable 
trades, he sold little switches at a half-penny each, and the 
singular call with which he advertised his wares was so well 
known that Shuter, the comedian, scored one of his greatest 
successes by his imitation of it from the stage. As a boxer 
he was, at his best, in the very first rank, and beat the fa- 
mous Harry Gray. 

3. Joe Berks 

Berks was a native of Wem, in Shropshire, and a cooper 
by trade. He was a boxer of great ferocity and courage, 
but was not conspicuous for science. His debut as a fighting- 
man was in a bye-battle of Wimbledon Common, when, on 
the occasion of a fight between Tom Jones and Bittoon the 
Jew, this formidable yokel appeared with a ciy of " Where's 
young Jem Belcher ? Where's your champion ? " On Jem 

406 



i 



NOTES 

appearing and asking him what he wanted, the reply was a 
blow in the face. A combat of nineteen rounds followed, in 
which Berks did so well that he was instantly backed by 
Lord Camelford in a proper fight for 100 guineas. After- 
wards, however, in two successive battles he demonstrated 
that all his devilry and strength were useless against the 
perfect science of the west-countryman. Berks, after a short 
experience of a jail, was rescued by the good offices of his 
brother pugilist, Jackson, and ended by enlisting. He dis- 
tinguished himself in the Peninsular War, and rose to be ser- 
geant of a grenadier company. I think that he died in the 
great breach of Badajos. 

4. John Jackson 

Jackson was the son of a well-known London builder, and 
his family were all people of a decent position. He soon 
made a name as a resolute and skilful boxer. It is typical 
of the spirit which animated these men, that having slipped 
and broken a bone of his leg in one of his earliest fights, he 
begged that he and his opponent, George Ingleston, might 
be strapped to a bench that they might fight it out upon 
equal terms. Shortly afterwards he challenged Mendoza, 
then champion through his victories over Humphries, and 
after a sharp contest of nine rounds he defeated him. Men- 
doza always declared that Jackson had won through hold- 
ing him by the hair, and the matter left a great deal of ill- 
feeling behind it. There is no doubt that Jackson did hold 
his hair, which was not forbidden by the laws of the ring. 
From that day all pugilists were close-cropped. 

Jackson was a great all-round athlete, and left a name in 
other things besides boxing. He was a famous sprinter ; 
held the record for the standing jump ; and could lift ten 
hundredweight and one-quarter, and write his own name 

407 



NOTES 

with an eighty-four-pound weight suspended from his httle 
finger. 

After his defeat of Mendoza, Jackson retired from the 
ring, and opened his famous athletic rooms at 13 Old Bond 
Street. The event may be said to have been of almost 
national importance, for it became the mode to take his 
lessons, and amateur boxing received a great impetus in 
consequence. 

Lord Byron was one of his assiduous pupils, though it is 
hard to believe that with his physical infirmity he could 
ever have been a dangerous boxer. Jackson exhibited, with 
other pugilists, before the allied monarchs when they came 
to London in 1814, and he was the head of a special guard 
of prize-fighters, who were formed to preserve order at the 
coronation of George IV. Twenty crop-headed, bull-faced 
" pugs " dressed as royal pages must have presented a some- 
what singular appearance. 

Jackson died in his house, 4 Lower Grosvenor Street, 
West, in 1845, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. His 
handsome mausoleum is to be seen in Brompton cemetery. 

5. Jem Belcher 

Jem Belcher was a curious example of atavism, for he was 
the grandson on his mother's side of the renowned Jem 
Slack, the only man who ever beat Broughton. He was 
one of the long line of Bristol men, who made that city so 
famous in the annals of the prize-ring. Jem was one of the 
handsomest men in England — a manlier Byron — hairless, 
firm-lipped, and beautiful. He was coquettish in dress, and 
his coloured scarves, twisted twice round the neck and tied 
in a bow in front, have made his name familiar to many who 
have never heard of his prowess in the ring. His height 
was half an inch under six feet, and his weight, at his best, 

408 



NOTES 

twelve stone. He may be said^ with more truth than any 
other boxer — with the exception perhaps of Randall — to 
have brought genius to the business. His effects were origi- 
nal, unstudied, and overwhelming. He had a sequence of 
three blows, which settled many an encounter. Before he 
was of age he had beaten every man of his weight on the 
list. 

Poor Jem was only in his twenty-third year when his eye 
was cut out by a racquet ball. His friends rallied round him 
and bought him a public house, but his spirit was too enter- 
prising to permit him to remain quiet while others claimed 
the title which had been his own. His fellow-townsman, 
Hen Pearce, known as " The Game Chicken," had fought 
his way up, and Belcher was called upon to resign the belt 
or to defend it. Against the advice of his best friends he 
chose to fight. Having lost one eye, and his other being 
damaged in the contest, he was at a terrible disadvantage, 
but he fought on >\ith heroic determination to the inevitable 
end. Even after this lesson he would not give in, but fought 
two desperate battles with Cribb before he was convinced 
that the injury which he had sustained handicapped him 
too severely to give him any hopes of ever again excelhng in 
the ring. He died at the age of thirty, heart-broken at his 
own impotence. 

THE PRINCE OF WALES. 

The peculiarities of George, especially his delusions as to 
his own exploits, as described in the text, might appear to 
verge upon caricature, but we have excellent evidence of 
their existence. Among other mythical adventures he was 
fond of narrating how he had led the famous charge of the 
heavies at Salamanca, and he actually, upon one occasion, 
appealed to the Duke of Wellington for corroboration. He 

409 



NOTES 

imagined also that he had ridden Fleur-de-lys for the Good- 
wood cup. 

The story of George's misdeeds and his repentances^ his 
extravagances and his retrenchments, his marriages and his 
infidelities, have been so often told that perhaps too little 
attention has been drawn to the limited amount of good in 
which he was concerned. His attachment to Mrs. Fitzher- 
bert appears to have been a sincere one, and in spite of his 
conduct his references to her in his latest years show that his 
affection was founded upon something higher than mere 
physical passion. She was probably the one good influence 
which ever came into his life, for his absurd education, and 
the connection which he formed in his early youth with his 
dissipated uncle, warped him from the outset. He was 
singularly unfortunate in his friends, and there is something 
pathetic in his occasional efforts to break away from them, 
or to draw Romilly, Wilberforce, and other men of character 
into his circle. That he had great social gifts of a superficial 
kind cannot be denied. Sir Walter Scott's judgment is final 
upon that point. He was also magnanimous and generous 
upon occasion. 

He spent his moneys on charity with the same liberal care- 
lessness which he showed towards his tailor or his architect. 
As regent and king he used his royal prerogative upon the 
side of mercy at a time when the brutality of the law need- 
ed all the alleviation possible. It is well to mention these 
traits, in order to soften a portrait which would otherwise be 
beyond the pale of humanity. 



410 



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